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Distance driven per person is still down from its maximum in 2004

by Michael Sivak.

This article is the latest in a series that examines recent changes in various aspects of road transportation in the United States. The focus here is on distance driven per person as opposed to total distance driven (which depends, in part, on the continuously increasing size of the U.S. population). (Earlier post.) The period covered is 1984 through 2018.

The calculations used the total distances driven by all light-duty vehicles (cars and light trucks) from the Federal Highway Administration and the resident populations from ProQuest. (Several of the latter values were recently updated.) The chart below shows the results.


The main findings concerning distance driven per person (summarized in the table below) are as follows:

  • An increase of 40.9% from 1984 to 2004 (from 6,612 miles to 9,314 miles).

  • A decrease of 9.0% from 2004 to 2013 (from 9,314 miles to 8,472 miles).

  • An increase of 4.5% from 2013 to 2018 (from 8,472 miles to 8,855 miles).


In conclusion:

  • Distance driven per person reached its maximum in 2004.

  • This rate is on a rebound since 2013, but it is still down by 4.9% from 2004.

Michael Sivak is the managing director of Sivak Applied Research and the former director of Sustainable Worldwide Transportation at the University of Michigan.



Anyone know how they measure miles driven per person ?
Who counts as per person:
Everyone in the USA.
Everyone eligible to drive (by age) in the USA ?
All license holders in the USA ?


@ mahonj

There are two different measures that I can think of: Per-person or per-capita and per-driver or per-motorist.

Per-driver or per-motorist data provides an indication of the average distance drivers drive, whether on a given day, week, month, year, etc.

Per-person or per-capita data considers average mileage driven relative to the number of representative people or representative population.

The figure and table above reflect per-capita or per person driving data.

Meanwhile, aggregate driving miles in the U.S. in 2018 is a whopping 3.2+ trillion. The most it's ever been.

So, what this is saying is that even though average per-person driving is below the peak of 9,314 miles in 2004 to 8,855 miles in 2018, by virtue of the fact that aggregate annual driving miles is what it is, this suggests to me that more people are taking to the roads more often.

That's my take.

Robbie Webber

" by virtue of the fact that aggregate annual driving miles is what it is, this suggests to me that more people are taking to the roads more often."

Overall driving in the entire country -- not divided by population -- has gone up because the US population has grown (as pointed out in the article.) But each individual is driving less, if you average it out across the entire population., so per capita driving has gone down.

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