Families exceed fuel-saving goals

— -- Last month, USA TODAY and Good Morning America Weekend challenged two families, the Rhodes of Camas, Wash., and the Porters of Salem, Mass., to cut their gasoline usage by 25%.

With help from Phil Reed, consumer advice editor for Edmunds.com, an automotive website, they learned how to save gas by driving more efficiently. And by working together and planning ahead, they drove fewer miles.

Both families exceeded the goal, but Tim and Kelly Porter came out on top. They reduced their gas usage by 42%. The Rhodes family cut their gas usage by 27%.

The Porters reduced the miles they drove by 35%, vs. only 8.6% for the Rhodeses. That's not surprising, Reed says. Randy and Mary Rhodes have four children, ages 16 through 20, all living at home. The Porter children are ages 2 and 10, so Tim and Kelly are the only drivers in their family.

As a result, Reed says, "The Porters are more in control of their destiny than a family that has four teenage drivers who are just beginning to experience the first flush of freedom."

Reed says the results of the challenge show that Americans can significantly reduce their gas consumption without making uncomfortable changes in their lifestyles.

"When gas prices go up, people feel it's out of their control," he says. "They can't control gas prices, but they can control how they use their cars."