Ask Warren Brown

Real Wheels Live

Real Wheels Live

The Post’s Warren Brown will be online to answer your questions about every aspect of the automotive industry.

Weekly schedule, past shows

Posted at 12:39 PM ET, 12/08/2011

Americans Driving Less, Gas Prices Higher


The economy, an aging population and high gas prices have made Americans drive less this year, going six straight months with fewer miles driven. That half-year of decreases is the first such decline in miles driven per driver since the gas spike of 2008, according to a government report.

The factors stemming from this year’s decline are much different from last time. In 2008, gas prices were erratic. "We had some tremendous peaks and some pretty low valleys that year, and by Dec. 31, 2008, it was down to $1.62 a gallon. The annual average for 2008 was $3.25,” Troy Green of AAA told USA Today.

While gas prices may not look as formidable as they were in 2008, the reality is that 2011 will be the most expensive year for gasoline on record, with the average price hovering around $3.53 per gallon for the year, Green said. By Oct. 10, the average American had spent the equivalent amount on fuel that was spent for all of 2010.

The expense has decreased some of America’s more fruitless driving habits, but other factors are at fault, too. As the nation’s 78 million baby boomers turn into empty nesters, they no longer need to drive their kids to school, to their friends’ homes, to the doctor and so on. Also, fewer teens are getting behind the wheel. Only 31% of 16-year-olds have driver’s licenses, down from 46% in 1983, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. More folks are using public transportation, with ridership up 2% this year, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Taken as a whole, we see a country that is less enamored with the open road, at least for now.

Economy, Gas Prices Make Americans Drive Less (USA Today)

By  |  12:39 PM ET, 12/08/2011

Read what others are saying

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company