Automobiles

Americans Are Driving Less

Down to Mid-'90s levels

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Driving in America has stalled, leading researchers to ask: Is the national love affair with the automobile over?

After rising for decades, total vehicle use in the U.S. — the collective miles people drive — peaked in August 2007. It then dropped sharply during the Great Recession and has largely plateaued since, even though the economy is recovering and the population growing. Just this week, the Federal Highway Administration reported vehicle miles traveled during the first half of 2013 were down slightly, continuing the trend.

Even more telling, the average number of miles drivers individually rack up peaked in July 2004 at just over 900 per month, said a study by Transportation Department economists Don Pickrell and David Pace. By July of last year, that had fallen to 820 miles per month, down about 9 percent. Per capita automobile use is now back at the same levels as in the late 1990s.

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