Dec 13, 2008

Americans Drive Less Even With Cheap Gas

Gas prices declined in October, but Americans continued to drive less than ever — 9 billion fewer miles than last October, in fact.

The decline points to a fundamental change in driving habits that began this summer during the gas-price spike but has continued even as prices have fallen. Since November 2007, Americans have driven 100 billion fewer miles compared to the same time span the year before that, which makes this the largest continuous decline in driving ever recorded.

The data, gathered by the Federal Highway Administration, doesn't stop there. Public transportation across the country has seen record increases, including Amtrak, which this fiscal year made the most money it's ever seen in its 37 years of operation. Car accident fatalities are also down 10% so far in 2008.

On the flipside, the Federal Highway Trust Fund continues to come up chronically short on funds because it relies on the gasoline tax. Congress already had to inject $8 billion into it earlier this year to keep important projects operating.

It doesn't take a Harvard economist to figure out that the economic sinkhole we've fallen into is largely responsible for the continued driving decline. Even if rising gas prices started the trend, tightening budgets and layoffs have continued it. Looking to cut expenses, Americans are taking fewer trips and telecommuting for work more frequently.

We're Driving Less Even as Gasoline Prices Drop (USA Today)