Published: Apr 12, 2011 3:28 AM EDT
Updated: Apr 11, 2011 11:53 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Gas prices are driving major changes to southwest Florida's economy. On Monday evening, southwest Florida drivers were paying about $3.79 for a gallon of regular gasoline. Drivers are telling WINK News that they're thinking twice every time they hit the road.

In just six weeks, prices at the pump have jumped nearly $0.40 a gallon. Three years ago, we saw the pain at the pump when prices peaked above $4. Local drivers have said they're changing their plans and even contemplating changing careers.

"it is scary. I'd like to just take a job working for a company where they supply the truck and pay the gas and take a regular pay check every week. That way I don't have to worry about it because it certainly is hurting," said Gary O'Connor, a local taxi driver.

O'Connor drives a taxi five days a week. He says each driver is responsible to fill up their cab's gas tank after each shift. It means if money isn't made on the road, it's money lost to the tank.

"It's a big chunk out of the pocket after working all day long," said O'Connor.

Marsha Kut with AAA in Fort Myers, said gas prices are speeding towards the $4 mark.

"We always anticipate a rise in mid-summer because of the summer travel but we've seen it rise rather quickly," said Kut.

Around Fort Myers, gas is averaging about $3.83 a gallon. It's why drivers like Kirk Hile are changing driving habits.

"We always did drive slow but we're driving like old people now. Old people are getting behind us and complaining," said Hile.

In addition to driving slow, there are things you can do to pinch pennies at the pump.

"Combine your errands, drive the speed limit and conserve because we might see prices go a little higher," said Kut.

With prices climbing, it has O'Connor watching and waiting and contemplating a new career.

"After Easter, if they continue to rise, it will be pointless to drive. I'll be working for nothing," said O'Connor.

Prices at the pump are up $0.93 cents since this time last year.