In an age when a $4 gallon of gas is never unfathomable, South Jersey drivers may get some good news this summer — prices are unlikely to near that reviled ceiling, several oil analysts said.

In fact, the average price of regular in the Atlantic and Cape May county area was $3.44 on Sunday, 29 cents less than a year ago, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

Local gasoline is also14 cents less expensive than a month ago.

For now, it appears East Coast prices peaked around Presidents Day weekend, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for GasBuddy, a comparative gas-pricing website recently acquired by the Oil Price Information Service.

“Whether we get back to those highs we saw in the third week of February is maybe 50/50, but this is not going to be a spring or summer with a $4 or $4.50 gallon of gas,” he said.

Some of that has to do with gas demand not being particularly strong, he said.

“Sometimes gas demand can be a leading indicator,” Kloza said. “There’s been a lot of cheerleading and happy talk about the U.S. economy, but if you look at gasoline demand in March, we’re using a little less fuel than we were last year. It indicates the consumer is not quite out there ready to spring forward with some enthusiasm.”

In South Jersey, the average gasoline price has never reached $4 per gallon, although it came dangerously close June 17, 2008, when regular gasoline in Atlantic and Cape May counties averaged $3.997, according to AAA.

Most other metro areas in New Jersey surpassed the $4-per-gallon average at some point in 2008.

Tracy Noble, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said recent gasoline price trends have been good news, both nationally and in New Jersey.

Noble said she does not see a $4 gallon this year as likely, although, like Kloza, she could not predict if gasoline prices already peaked for the year.

“Any turmoil, any major weather events, any disruptions to supply and demand, any political unrest can affect crude oil prices because it’s such a volatile market,” she said.

Contact Brian Ianieri:

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