Americans on pace for highest driving level in 7 years

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Low gas prices, a milder winter and an improving economy are fueling a rise in driving, as Americans drove 2.5 billion more miles in November compared with last year.

The U.S. Transportation Department said Tuesday that Americans drove 241 billion miles in November — up 1.1 percent over November 2013. Through the first 11 months, travel is up 1.4 percent, or 38.2 billion miles, to 2.76 billion miles.

Drivers are on pace to top 3 trillion miles for the first time since 2007 — when drivers logged 3.031 trillion miles, the most in history — and just one of two years in which driving topped 3 trillion miles. As drivers buy more fuel-efficient vehicles, they also opt to drive more as the price per mile declines.

Michigan saw driving fall by 1.5 percent overall in November to 7.24 billion miles after rising 1.6 percent in October. Driving rose fastest in the west — up 2.2 percent in November —- and was up 1.7 percent in the south gulf and 1.6 percent in the south Atlantic region. Driving fell 0.4 percent in the Midwest and 0.2 percent in the Northeast.

In Michigan, driving fell 1.6 percent on urban roads and 1.5 percent on rural roads in November

As the population has grown, the number of vehicles on U.S. roads has risen sharply — from 184 million in 1988 to about 253 million vehicles today. In 1988, Americans drove 2.03 trillion miles.

In more than half of U.S. states, gas prices have fallen below $2 a gallon and are down 40 percent since June to the lowest level in more than five years.