By Michael Graham Richard, January 19, 2015
U.S. vehicles traveled 2,988,777,000,000 miles last yearIt looks like the generation that is coming of age in the 2000s is less interested in cars than their elders, which might mean that we have finally reached 'peak car' (or maybe it's a temporary plateau, time will tell). This is quite clear on this graph produced by the Federal Reserve of St-Louis:
Federal Reserve of St-Louis/Screen capture
But even with that pause in the increase of total vehicle-miles driven in the US, the average number of miles driven per driver remains high at 13,476, according to the Federal Highway Administration. More worrying is that U.S. men are doing more than their share of driving, raking up more than 60% more miles per year on average than U.S. women:
U.S. DOT/Screen capture
As you can see above, the age group that drives the most are men between 35 and 55 years of age, while women over 65 only average 4,700 miles/year (which is less than half the distance driven by men aged 65+).
The latest numbers from the Fed, from October 2014, show that the U.S. vehicle fleet has driven 2,988,777,000,000 miles in the past 12 months. Many of those were no doubt useful and necessary (especially for people who live outside of urban areas), but a huge amount could probably easily be eliminated without affecting anyone's quality of life; in fact, it would probably improve the quality of life of almost everybody. Nobody dreams of spending hours sitting in traffic every day, breathing polluted air and spending their hard-earned money on a vehicle that is burning money and depreciating fast.
While more of the burden of driving less falls on men simply because they drive more, everyone should take a look at their driving and see if they can improve things. Combining trips is a good way to reduce unnecessary back and forth driving; walking, biking, carpooling, or taking transit to commute instead of driving alone is a no-brainer; living closer to the things you need (work, play, family, stores) can dramatically cut your driving and the time you waste in sitting in your car; and if all else is impossible for whatever reason, definitely get the greenest vehicle that meets your needs. Today for many people, this might be an electric car or plug-in hybrid. If you can't reduce the number of miles as much as you'd like, at least you can reduce the negative impact of each of those miles.