Americans Still Driving Less Than They Did In 2007

By Terence P. Jeffrey | December 30, 2013 | 4:23pm EST

(AP Photo)

( - Although Americans drove their vehicles more miles in October 2013 than they did in any of the five previous Octobers, they still drove less this October than they did in October 2007, according to estimates published in the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Traffic Volume Trends (TVT) report.

The last recession hit in December 2007 and lasted until June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. In the years since that recession first hit, Americans have been driving less than they did immediately preceding it, according to data published by FHWA in its TVT report and Highway Performance Monitoring System.

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Since 1957, here have been six calendar years—1974, 1979, 1980, 2008, 2009, and 2011--when Americans drove fewer miles than they did the year before. Three of these years—2008, 2009 and 2011—have come since the last recession started in December 2007.

This October, according to the most recent TVT report, vehicles travelling on all roads and streets in the United States went approximately 258,718,000,000 miles.

That was more than Americans drove in the Octobers of 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, according to the TVT. But it was less than the 261,505,000,000 miles Americans drove in October 2007.

So far, according to the FHWA, calendar year 2007 was the peak calendar year for driving in the United States. That year, vehicles travelling on all roads in the United States went a combined 3,031,124,000,000 miles.

The FHWA’s TVT report cautions that the agency’s monthly travel estimates are not as accurate as its annual estimates.

“Traffic Volume Trends is a monthly report based on hourly traffic count data,” says the TVT report. “These data, collected at approximately 4,000 continuous traffic counting locations nationwide, are used to determine the percent change in traffic for the current month compared to the same month in the previous year. This percent change is applied to the travel for the same month of the previous year to obtain an estimate of travel for the current month. Because of the limited sample sizes, caution should be used with these estimates. The Highway Performance Monitoring System provides more accurate information on an annual basis.”

In October 2007, before the last recession started, the average price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline in the United States was $2.793, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average price subsequently peaked at $4.090 a gallon in July 2008. In October 2013, it was $3.375.

In October 2007, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.7 percent, according to BLS. In October 2013, it was 7.3 percent. (In November 2013, it was 7.0 percent). Between October 2007 and November 2013, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate peaked at 10.0 percent in October 2009.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, there have been nine recessions in the United States since 1957. These were from August 1957 to April 1958; April 1960 to February 196; December 1969 to November 1970; November 1973 to March 1975; January 1980 to July 1980; July 1981 to November 1982; July 1990 to March 1991; March 2001 to November 2001; and December 2007 to June 2009.

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