Americans on Pace to Have Driven 40 Billion Fewer Miles in 2011 Vs. 2010

If economists ever needed any sort of evidence that the highest yearly average ever for gasoline is putting the brakes on travel, here it is. Newly released data covering miles driven in this country shows that through November of 2011, yearly travel is down 1.4%, or 38.3 billion miles. This puts U.S. motorists on par to have driven 40 billion fewer miles in 2011 than 2010.

The regions that saw the biggest drops in miles traveled in November were the South Gulf and South Atlantic, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Travel in the South Gulf, which includes TX, OK, AR, LA, AL, MS, KT, and TN was down 1.7% for November vs. the same month in 2010. The South Atlantic, which includes FL, GA, SC, NC, VA, WV, and MD, saw miles traveled drop by 1.6%- perhaps due to cooler weather that depressed our friends in the South? Either way you look at it- the drops in miles traveled is certainly tied to lifestyle changes we’re making because of high gasoline prices.

Since 2008, the last time the national average hit $4, miles traveled has been generally on a downward trend. When gasoline prices drop and become affordable during the summer months is when we see travel really pick up, which was the case during the summer of 2010. Beyond that, the amount that Americans are driving is at its lowest since 2003/2004. So not only are we driving less, but we’re using less gasoline in the process. Unfortunately, even as our country sees demand for gasoline drop, China and other emerging and developing countries easily make up for it with higher demand.

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