U.S. driving surges to all-time record

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Low gas prices are spurring Americans to drive more — nearly 990 billion miles in the first four months of the year, an all-time record.

The Federal Highway Administration said Wednesday that Americans drove 987.8 billion miles in the first four months of the year — up 3.9 percent over last year — to top the previous record of 965.5 billion miles that was set in the first four months of 2007.

And in the month of April, drivers logged 3.9 percent more miles — 10.2 billion — to 267.9 billion miles, an all-time record. The April estimates show that the nation’s driving has increased steadily for 14 consecutive months.

In April, Michigan drivers logged 8.3 billion miles, up 2.7 percent. Indiana had the biggest uptick, 14.8 percent.

The only area where driving declined was Washington, D.C., where driving fell by 0.3 percent.

The U.S. Transportation Department argues the record driving underscores “the need for greater investment in transportation infrastructure.” Miles driven has increased for 14 straight months.

Average gas prices are averaging $2.81 a gallon, 89 cents a gallon lower than a year ago. Gas prices averaged nearly $4 a gallon in 2013 but fell to nearly $2 a gallon earlier this year, the lowest in nearly a decade.

Last year, Americans drove 3.02 trillion miles in 2014, up 1.7 percent over 2013 and the highest number driven since 2007, fueled by a sharp decline in oil prices. At the current spike in driving, Americans are on pace this year to break the all-time record.

Last year’s driving was the second highest since the government began collecting data 79 years ago. In the late 1980s, Americans were driving just 2 trillion miles a year. The record in 2007 was 3.03 trillion miles.

“Americans are driving their cars at near-record levels, and being stuck in traffic is costing drivers an average of nearly five days a year,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who has pitched a big jump in highway spending as part of a six-year funding measure.