Iowa gas prices still low as school begins

(Image courtesy of the Iowa Department of Education)

DES MOINES, Iowa - Drive-time traffic is about to get more congested as kids go back to school.

Mark Peterson with AAA Iowa says it's important to watch for school zones and buses when classes start back up, as well as planning for a longer trip to work. "It's going to take you a little bit longer, there's more vehicle traffic because you have a lot of parents dropping them off," said Peterson. "So they're driving into congestion at some of the schools. And with that, it's going take a little more. You've got to build a little time in there."

A law was signed in 2015 calling for Iowa schools to start no earlier than August 23rd. The date was selected in part because it's the last day the Iowa State Fair can end.

The start of classes coincides with a build-up of traffic on roadways in late August moving toward the busy Labor Day weekend. "You're talking about the tail end of the 100 busiest and deadliest days of summer as we approach the holiday weekend," Peterson said.

The Iowa State Patrol says August to Labor Day is such a dangerous time because of an increased amount of drivers on the road, including back to school traffic.

Meanwhile, gas prices are low right now, but Peterson says tension in the middle east could lead to a spike upward. "That's an intangible issue, that is something that could have effects on it," Peterson said. "It does not appear to yet, but it is something we have to keep our eye on."

He also thinks oil reserves could impact prices at the pump. "Right now the reserves are in pretty good shape, so we have been seeing the prices going down, but now they're starting to pick up a little bit."

Regular gas in Iowa is 2.46 a gallon, about 15-cents below the national average. The price at the pump is down roughly 10-cents from the same time last year in in the state.

AAA figures show the lowest price is 2.25 in southeast Iowa's Clarke County. Gas Buddy reports individual retailers in Ankeny are posting prices as low as 2.12.

Prices will drop further next month with the changeover from summer-blend to the cheaper-to-produce winter-blend gasoline.

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