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Gas prices fall to 4-1/2 year low

National average price for unleaded gas hits $1.648, says AAA, falling nearly 60% from this summer's record highs.

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By David Goldman, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Christmas travelers haven't paid this little for gasoline in nearly five years.

Gas prices declined for the sixth straight day on Thursday, falling below the $1.65 per gallon, according to a national survey of credit card swipes at gasoline stations.

The nationwide average price dropped to $1.648 a gallon, down 0.7 cents from Wednesday's $1.655, according to motorist group AAA. The survey bases its information on credit card swipes from up to 100,000 service stations across the nation.

Gas prices were at their lowest national average since Feb 20, 2004 AAA reported.

The plunge in the nationwide average price comes as welcome news to Americans who are traveling for the Christmas holiday.

Still, motor travel has continued to fall off even as gas prices have plummeted nearly $2.50 since this summer's record highs. Americans drove 100 billion fewer miles during the 12-month period between November 2007 and October 2008 compared with the prior year, according to the a recent report from the Department of Transportation.

As this year's recession deepened, demand for fuel waned, sending oil prices down more than $110, or 76% from July 11. Gas prices have dropped off 60% since they hit a record-high of $4.114 on July 17.

Now, average gas prices are below $2 a gallon in all 48 contiguous states. Utah had the cheapest gas, averaging $1.463.

Alaska continued to have the highest price at $2.591 per gallon, followed by Hawaii, which stands at $2.37. To top of page

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