7 Reasons We’re Driving Less Than Before
With its vast network of gas stations and open roads, driving has long been a favorite American pastime. The year 2007 saw vehicle use hit its peak — and, facing mounting fuel costs and ever increasing new vehicle prices, it hit an apex and has since been in steady decline. This past week, the Federal Highway Administration reported that vehicle miles traveled during the first half of this year were down slightly again as the trend continues.
“Even more telling,” Joan Lowy of the AP explains, “the average number of miles drivers individually rack up peaked in July 2004 at just over 900 per month,” she wrote, quoting a study by Transportation Department economists Don Pickrell and David Pace. “By July of last year, that had fallen to 820 miles per month, down about 9 percent. Per capita automobile use is now back at the same levels as in the late 1990s.”
Pickrell and Pace indicate that through the 1990s, driving and economic activity were closely intertwined. If the economy was doing well, people drove more, and vice versa. However, “since then, the economy has grown more rapidly than auto use.” Lowy continues, “Gross domestic product declined for a while during the recession but reversed course in 2009. Auto use has yet to recover.” In her piece, Lowy outlined several ideas as to how these trends can be explained.