FEARS of a 4p-a-litre rise in prices at the pumps sent petrol sales crashing to an all-time July low.

The rise turned out to be only 1.5p a litre but it led to July petrol consumption dipping to 1.44 billion litres, down nearly 100 million litres on June, according to Government figures highlighted by the AA.

The AA said petrol retailers and others had predicted the UK's average cost of petrol would rise by up to 4p a litre in July.

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Prices did reach 131.70p a litre before falling back below 130p by the second week of August, the AA said.

July 2013 had seen a 127 million-litre fall in UK petrol consumption after the average pump price rose 2.5p to 137.33p a litre.

In March this year, UK petrol consumption had plummeted to 1.37 billion litres, its lowest level since Government records began in 1992.

Through April, May and the first half of June, consumption recovered to more normal levels of around 1.5 billion litres as the average petrol price hovered around 130p a litre.

Commenting on the July figures, AA president Edmund King said: "Once again, it has been shown that the British driver becomes nervous even with the threat of higher pump prices."