WASHINGTON — With fuel prices soaring, Americans are dramatically cutting back on driving nationwide, new data from the U.S. Department of Transportation showed Wednesday.
Estimates for June indicate we drove 12.2 billion fewer miles than in June 2007, and that the downward trend that began last November has reached a reduction of 53.2 billion miles compared with the same eight-month period a year earlier.
The falloff exceeds the effects of the gas shortages of the 1970s, when the total decline in driving was 49.3 billion miles.
Florida had a decline of 6 percent compared with June 2007.
In the South Gulf region, the drop was 4.4 percent, with mileage in Texas falling 4.2 percent.
That decrease coincided with the national average price for unleaded gasoline hitting $4 a gallon for the first time on June 8. It peaked in mid-July at $4.11 and was down to $3.78 on Wednesday, according to AAA.
“I think people have started to take the increase in gas prices somewhat more in stride,” Keefe said.
Some of the biggest declines in June, compared with a year ago, were in such popular vacation states as Maine, down 7 percent, and Florida, down 6 percent.
Western states with wide-open spaces also were part of the trend — down 7.7 percent in Idaho, 6.9 percent in Utah, 6.8 percent in Washington, 6.7 percent in Nevada, 6.2 percent in Kansas and 6.1 percent in Alaska.
Elinor Ginzler, AARP's senior vice president for livable communities, said she's concerned that communities don't have adequate sidewalks, bus shelters, bike lanes and public transportation options as more people look for other means to get around.
AARP polled 1,006 people nationally between July 9 and July 15. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The driving drop was not all bad, however.
“There is at least one silver lining in what's otherwise fairly painful news, and that is that less driving means less air pollution and fewer global warming emissions,” said Frank O'Donnell of the environmental group Clean Air Watch.