Americans Driving Less than Ever

Posted: July 30, 2008

Gas prices have forced Americans to drive less.  So much less, in fact, that the federal government yesterday reported the one of the biggest one-month drops in miles driven since the Federal Highway Administration began tracking such numbers -- in 1942.

The Washington Post reports, "People drove 9.6 billion fewer miles than in May 2007."  That's the third-biggest monthly drop ever recorded.  The only two larger drops on record both occurred during December in years when Americans curtailed holiday traveling. "During the first five months of 2008, people drove 29.8 billion fewer miles than during the same period of 2007."  Americans are driving less, looking for ways to drive more efficiently, and buying more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The reduced demand for gasoline has had some impact on gas prices.  The Los Angeles Times reports, "Fuel prices have been falling as lower oil prices make their way to the pump and because motorists are driving less."  Over the weekend, the nationwide average cost for a gallon of regular gas "dropped below $4 a gallon for the first time since June 2, declining 10.9 cents a gallon to $3.955, according to the Energy Department's weekly survey of filling stations."

Still, many analysts do not expect reduced demand in the U.S. to lead to a permanent drop in gas prices, as it is not expected to offset growing demand in China, India and other countries

Kicking Tires sees one unintended consequence in the numbers -- "a decline in revenue for the Highway Trust Fund, which gets its money from the federal gas tax. With people driving significantly less, the fund is losing money. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said in a statement that the decline in revenue pointed toward a problem for the future.  As plug-in hybrids hit the roads and Americans find other means and technologies to reduce their gas consumption, the Highway Trust Fund will have to find a different revenue source if we want to keep our highways from crumbling into disrepair."

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