The nationwide average for gasoline prices approached $3.74 a gallon Thursday, continuing a steady rise for the 23rd consecutive day, according to the motorist group AAA. The average price rose 0.7 cent a gallon in the latest 24-hour period, AAA said. A month ago, the nationwide average was $3.44 a gallon. Gas prices are up 14% so far in 2012. The average price is down 37.6 cents, or about 9.1%, from the record high of $4.11 on July 17, 2008. Average prices for regular gasoline top $4 a gallon in California, Alaska and Hawaii, with Hawaii’s price of just above $4.35 a gallon standing as the nation’s high. Prices are within a nickel of the $4 mark in New York and Connecticut, according to AAA.