Management & Operations

DOT: U.S. driving decline continues

Posted on March 19, 2009

New estimates released March 19 show the decline in American driving continued in January 2009 with 7 billion fewer vehicle-miles traveled (VMT), or 3.1 percent less, compared to the same month a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.


This is the first “back-to-back” decline for January since 1981-1982.


The decline now exceeds 122 billion VMT, compared to the same 14-month period — December 2006 to January 2008 — a year earlier. A recent end-of-the-year data calibration adjusted the November 2007 data, revealing that the trend did not begin in November 2007, as originally reported, but rather in December 2007.


As it has since the trend began, the decline in rural driving in January 2009 outpaced urban driving.


The new data show the North Central area — a bloc of 12 states ranging from Ohio to the Dakotas — experienced the biggest regional decline at 6 percent fewer VMT compared to January 2008. At 10.2 percent fewer VMT, Ohio led the nation with the largest single-state decline that month.


Despite the overall national decline, the West — a bloc of 13 states including Hawaii and Alaska — posted an increase of .2 percent. It is the West’s first increase in estimated VMT since the national decline began.


To review the VMT data in FHWA’s “Traffic Volume Trends” reports, including that of January 2009, visit

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