Americans don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions to drive their cars less, but it may be happening anyway.
The average number of miles people drive has plateaued over the past three years at about 9,800 miles a year, approximately 2 percent below the amount motorists traveled in 2004, the Wall Street Journal reported. And car-based commuting trips were lower than any time since 1990, while trips for shopping and recreational activities have also fallen, according to U.S. DOT surveys.
Specifically, data show:
After rising for much of the 1980s and 1990s, the average number of miles traveled is falling or at least flattening in states with large metropolitan areas with good transit like California, Illinois, Washington, Oregon, and New York.
Driving is also declining in rural states like West Virginia and Maine and in Sun Belt states like Arizona and Texas but rising in southern states like Louisiana, North Carolina, and Mississippi.Wyoming had the highest per capita vehicle miles traveled in the nation in 2017 at 16,901, followed by Alabama (14,498), New Mexico (14,178), Mississippi (13,673) and North Dakota (12,867), according to Census figures analyzed by the Eno Center earlier this year.
The lowest amount of driving, on average, was in New York (6,316 per capita vehicle miles traveled). Alaska (7,460), Hawaii (7,547), Rhode Island (7,573), and Pennsylvania (7,945) followed.
The last time Americans cut back on their car usage was during the Great Recession when unemployment was higher and people slashed their spending on travel. Vehicle miles traveled also dipped in the mid-2000s when economy was slowly emerging from a mini-recession after 9/11, but gas prices were starting to rise.
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