May 23, 2024

Americans Driving Less

CNN says that with gas prices inching perilously close to $4 per gallon, Americans are driving less.

Compared with March a year earlier, Americans drove an estimated 4.3 percent less — that’s 11 billion fewer miles, the DOT’s Federal Highway Administration said Monday, calling it "the sharpest yearly drop for any month in FHWA history."

The Energy Information Administration says gas consumption for the first three months of 2008 is estimated to be down about 0.6 percent from the same time period in 2007.

Interesting numbers.  We’re driving 4.3% fewer miles but only reducing gas consumption by 0.6%??? 

Either there’s something screwy with these stats or we’re driving even less fuel efficient vehicles than last year.  I’m betting on the former as both news reports and anecdotal evidence suggest a definitive shift towards smaller cars is taking place.  Again.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see another drop of this size next year.  It seems likely that gas prices will continue to rise and discretionary travel will continue to be forgone if they do.  However, the vast majority of miles Americans drive are mandatory, meaning there’s a limit to how much less driving we can do in the absence of much-improved mass transit and technological options like telecommuting.

The latter is a promising alternative for many workers; however, many employers are reluctant to loosen the supervisory reins, even for trusted, capable workers whose efficiency wouldn’t be impeded – and might be helped – by working at home.

Perhaps this is an area in which a savvy Congress could help by creating tax incentives for employers who allow workers to telecommute. What are the odds?


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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