The recent drop in gas prices encouraged Americans to get out on the roads at near-record levels in 2014. U.S. motorists traveled 3.02 trillion miles last year: 1.7% more than the 2.97 trillion in 2013.
The result was the second-highest total ever recorded in the 69 years the stat has been tracked, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, behind only the 3.03 trillion miles posted in 2007.
While low gas prices means it’s easier on the bank account to get out and about, there is a downside to so many folks being on the roads.
“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 in a release.
As the price of gas began to fall last August, the miles began ramping up, culminating in 251.4 billion miles in December: a 5% jump and the highest December total ever. The move to get behind the wheel happened everywhere across the country; every state recorded traffic increases in December.
Indiana motorists recorded the biggest increase at 10.5%, followed by Oklahoma at 9.3%, Montana at 8% and Michigan at 7.9%. In fact, motorists in that region, which the Transportation Department calls North Central, drove more miles in December than any other region at 55.4 billion miles: an increase 6.3%.
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The increase gave Foxx the opportunity to push for infrastructure investments aiming at moving traffic more efficiently.
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“To ensure this problem doesn’t get worse, greater innovations and investments are needed,” he said. “We can’t keep treating America’s 21st-century traffic needs with 20th-century solutions.”
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“Data like these are critical to helping federal and state transportation leaders understand the challenges facing American drivers,” said Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau, in a release.
“The nation’s growing demand on roads and bridges underscores what we have been saying — increased investment is needed if we are to keep our roads from becoming parking lots.”