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Data Point

Annual Miles Driven Per Capita Plateaued Near 12,500, About 750 Miles Below All-Time Peak

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Article Highlights

  1. Annual per capita miles driven in the United States has plateaued since the Great Recession.
  2. With the collapse of fuel prices in 2014 and some gains in real wages, miles driven resumed sustained growth through 2017.
  3. However, in 2018 we once again saw a spike in fuel prices (and vehicle operating costs) which pushed miles driven backward.

Annual per capita miles driven in the United States has plateaued since the Great Recession. In the mid-2000s miles driven peaked at around 13,200 per capita (population aged 16+) then decreased every year between 2006 and 2014.

A tepid, flat-income economic recovery combined with historically higher fuel prices significantly increased the real cost of operating a vehicle for the average household. With the collapse of fuel prices in 2014 and some gains in real wages, miles driven resumed sustained growth through 2017. However, in 2018 we once again saw a spike in fuel prices (and vehicle operating costs) which pushed miles driven backward.

Click image to enlarge.

 

The visualization above shows the historical relationship between fuel costs and annual per capita miles driven since the 1970s. Miles driven increased relentlessly for 30 years along with the number of drivers on the road and vehicles per household. Setbacks have been coincident with rapid fuel price increases and/or recessions. At this juncture in history, we fluctuate around a plateau near 12,500 miles driven per capita annually, about 750 miles below the all-time peak we saw fifteen years ago.

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