New estimates released by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) show that U.S. driving topped 3.2 trillion miles last year. It is the fifth straight year of increased mileage on public roads throughout the nation, and underscores the demands facing America’s roads and bridges, and reaffirms calls for greater investment in surface transportation infrastructure.
The new data, published in FHWA’s latest “Traffic Volume Trends” report – a monthly estimate of U.S. road travel – show that more than 263.6 billion miles were driven in December 2016 alone, which is a .5 percent increase over the previous December.
The December 2016 report also includes seasonally-adjusted data, which is conducted by USDOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics as a way to even out seasonal variation in travel and enable vehicle miles travelled (VMT) comparisons with any other month in any year. The seasonally-adjusted VMT for December 2016 were 269.3 billion miles. Compared with seasonally adjusted November 2016 data, December 2016 VMT fell slightly by .6 percent but rose 0.6 percent from December 2015. The estimates include passenger vehicle, bus and truck travel.
At 2.9 percent, traffic in the West – a 13-state region stretching from California to Montana, and including Hawaii and Alaska – led the nation with the largest percentage increase in unadjusted VMT, and continued an uninterrupted series of monthly increases that began in October 2013. Mileage fell slightly in the Northeast and North Central states.
At 33.9 billion VMT, California accounted for more miles driven in December 2016 than the combined 33.8 billion miles of 22 states – Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming – and Washington, D.C.
At 5.8 percent, Louisiana led the nation with the largest unadjusted single-state traffic percent increase compared to the same month a year earlier, followed by Utah at 5.2 percent and Nevada at 5.1 percent. At 6.2 percent, for the tenth month in a row, North Dakota led the nation with the largest unadjusted traffic decrease for the month.
Winter weather is here – just in time for many Americans to embark on holiday road trips. According to an online survey commissioned by Bridgestone Americas (Bridgestone) and fielded by Harris Poll in October 2015,* Americans log a combined national average of 25 billion miles on the road to visit family and spend a combined average of $52 billion on travel during the holiday season.** Although many will be taking holiday road trips, only a quarter (26 percent) of drivers in Snowbelt states already have installed or plan to install winter tires this year.
“Many Americans are traveling for the holidays, but most haven’t fully prepared their vehicles to take on challenging winter driving conditions,” said Chris Welty, Bridgestone tire education specialist. “Winter tires are built specially to give drivers better grip, stopping power and more control in snow, slush and ice. The thin layer of water on the road from ice or melting snow can be very dangerous, and winter tires are designed to clear that icy water and grip the road.”
Although they’re planning to drive 147 miles on average to different family members’ homes this holiday season, many Americans are troubled by the freezing temperatures and treacherous driving conditions that accompany the start of winter. Seventy-one percent of drivers admit they are nervous to drive when it’s icy, and many also are nervous to drive during heavy fog (52 percent), heavy rain (48 percent), sleet (47 percent) and snow (45 percent). In fact, when Americans were asked what they dislike in general about the winter season, driving issues topped the list, specifically icy roads (59 percent) and other drivers who drive dangerously (55 percent). Other major dislikes include heating bills (47 percent), removing snow and ice from their vehicle (43 percent), and even cold feet (38 percent).
“It’s clear from our survey findings that Americans are worried about driving in winter weather,” said Welty. “Making the switch to winter tires can help ensure that drivers feel confident in every winter driving condition – whether they are headed to Grandma’s house this holiday or sticking closer to home. The holiday season can be stressful, but hitting the road in winter weather doesn’t have to be.”
To make sure their vehicles are road trip ready, most of those who currently own a vehicle (74 percent) prepare for winter by checking tire pressure (48 percent), windshield wipers (46 percent) or fluid levels (45 percent). When it comes to preparing a vehicle for winter weather, Bridgestone encourages drivers to remember the four B’s – battery, brakes, blades and Blizzak winter tires.
For information about Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires or to find a Bridgestone retailer, visit www.ConquertheCold.com.
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AAA Travel forecasts 46.9 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday, a 0.6 percent increase over the 46.6 million people who traveled last year and the most since 2007. With 300,000 additional holiday travelers, this marks the seventh consecutive year of growth for Thanksgiving travel. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, November 25 to Sunday, November 29.
“This Thanksgiving, more Americans will carve out time to visit friends and family since 2007,” said Marshall Doney, AAA President and CEO. “While many people remain cautious about the economy and their finances, many thankful Americans continue to put a premium on traveling to spend the holiday with loved ones.”
Despite improvements in the economy, including steady wage growth, rising disposable income and a falling unemployment rate, consumers remain cautious about their finances. However, gas prices remain well below 2014 levels, providing an early holiday bonus to the more than 89 percent of holiday travelers who will drive to their destinations.
“One holiday gift has come early this year. Americans will likely pay the lowest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2008. Lower prices are helping boost disposable income, and enabling families to kick off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving getaway,” continued Doney.
Driving remains most popular mode of travel for Thanksgiving
Nearly 42 million Americans will take a holiday road trip this Thanksgiving, an increase of 0.7 percent over last year. Air travel is expected to increase by 0.1 percent, with 3.6 million Americans flying to their holiday destinations. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will decrease 1.4 percent this Thanksgiving, to 1.4 million travelers.
Lowest Thanksgiving gas prices in seven years expected
Drivers nationwide continue to experience significant yearly savings in the price of gas and AAA estimates that consumers are saving nearly $265 million on gasoline every day compared to a year ago. This has helped boost disposable income, enabling many Americans to travel this Thanksgiving. Most U.S. drivers will pay the lowest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2008. Today’s national average price for a gallon of gasoline is $2.15, 65 cents less than the average price on Thanksgiving last year ($2.80).
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The American Automobile Association (AAA) is projecting that 35.5 million Americans will travel 50 or more miles from home during the coming Labor Day holiday weekend. This number represents the highest travel volume for this holiday period since 2008… and a one percent increase over 2014.
30.4 million of these travelers will do it by car. Over 2.6 million are expected to travel by air, making it the largest volume of air travel for a Labor Day holiday weekend since 2007. The Labor Day holiday weekend is defined as Thursday, September 3 to Monday, September 7.
Falling gas prices have also helped boost the average family’s disposable income, also contributes to the increased numbers this year. The national average price for a gallon of gasoline is $2.57. That’s $.86 cents less than the average price per gallon a year ago, and the lowest U.S. average since 2009.
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The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that 37.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from their homes during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. That number represents a 4.7 percent increase from the 35.5 million people who traveled last year and the highest travel volume for the holiday in 10 years.
AAA also predicts that 33 million Americans will travel by car to their destinations. The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 21, to Monday, May 25.
More AAA information from their report:
- Most drivers will probably pay the lowest Memorial Day gas prices in at least five years. The current national average price of gas is $2.66, which is about $1 less than the average price on Memorial Day last year.
- The 4.7 percent increase over Memorial Day 2014 is the highest forecast growth rate for any of the holidays tracked by AAA since Independence Day 2012.
- More than 33 million travelers will go by automobile, an increase of 5.3 percent over last Memorial Day.
- Travelers will encounter higher lodging costs this year, while airfares are down slightly compared to Memorial Day 2014.
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