Cheap gas, an improving economy and a bunch of new cars, trucks and utility vehicles sold all add up to one thing: Americans are driving. In fact, they’re driving at a record pace through the first half of 2016, according to the latest figures.
Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) for the first six months of 2016 hit 1.58 trillion million miles through June, according to the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) most recent Traffic Volume Trends report. The previous record of 1.54 trillion miles was set last year.
FHWA says for comparison, 1.58 trillion miles, which is a 3.3% increase over last year, equates to roughly 250 round trips from Earth to Pluto.
For June, VMT in the U.S. reached 282.3 billion miles, a small increase over the same month in 2015. The seasonally adjusted figure, which the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) uses to “even out seasonal variation in travel” for comparison purposes, was 268.1 billion miles. This was an increase of 2.9% compared to June last year.
(Death toll on U.S. roads continues to rise. For more, Click Here.)
While it’s not all that surprising we’re driving more, the next question is who is leading the way? Well, it’s the wild, wild West, according to the bureau. Of the five regions, the 13-state West was up 4.1% for the first half of the year.
The leader in the West was Hawaiian drivers. They were up 8.6% on a year-over-year basis with Idaho and Utah tied for second at 5.1%. The only decrease was seen in North Dakota, with a 2.4% drop.
While we are rolling up more miles than ever, are individual drivers racking them up at a higher rate, Bloomberg News says no. Since the U.S. population continues to set new records for growth, it would follow that there are more drivers on the road than ever.
In short, it would only make sense that country is rolling up more miles on its highways and byways, the news site notes. However, a better number to gauge are Americans driving more is U.S. vehicle miles traveled per person.
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The average American drives 12,545.5 miles annually as of June 1, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. An uptick compared to last year’s June 1 figure of 12,279.4 miles annually. However, quite a bit less than the 13,222 miles averaged on June 1, 2005: the highest number since bureau began tracking the number in 1992.
As a nation, we may be driving less as individuals but because there are more cars on the roads, we’re tallying up more miles. We’re also tallying up more crashes. The death toll on American roads and highways continues to rise as new estimates show a 9% jump in motor vehicle deaths through the first six months of 2016, according the National Safety Council.
An estimated 19,100 people have been killed and 2.2 million seriously injured compared with the same period in 2015. The figure is 18% higher than 2014 results. The deaths not only extract a toll on the impacted families, but the estimated financial cost is $205 billion.
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The upward trend began in late 2014 and despite the introduction of stronger, safer vehicles laden with more safety technology than ever, it appears to show no sign of decreasing. Last winter, the NSC issued its largest year-over-year percentage increase in 50 years, when it estimated fatalities had jumped 8% in 2015 compared to 2014.