Although Thanksgiving auto travel this year is expected to be the heaviest since 2007, overall, driving is on a downward trend.
This chart shows that per-capita vehicle miles peaked in 2007, and the correlation of vehicle travel with economic growth is weakening.
Trends in Per-Capita Vehicle-Miles Traveled and Real Gross Domestic Product
For decades, economic growth and vehicle travel were closely correlated. Since the beginning of the 21st century, however, economic growth and vehicle travel have diverged, suggesting a weakening link between the state of the economy and the number of miles Americans drive.
Millenials are driving less.
No age group has experienced a greater change in its driving habits than young Americans.
According to the National Household Travel Survey, from 2001 and 2009, the annual number of vehicle-miles traveled by 16 to 34 year-olds (a group that included a mix of Millennials and younger members of Generation X) decreased from 10,300 miles to 7,900 miles per capita—a drop of 23 percent…
The percentage of young people with a driver’s license has been dropping for years. In 2011, the percentage of 16 to 24 year-olds with driver’s licenses dipped to 67 percent—the lowest percentage since at least 1963.
Percentage of 16 to 24-Year-Olds with Driver’s Licenses
Technology has affected driving habits.
The recent recession no doubt reduced the number of miles young Americans drove, but the economy is clearly not the only factor at play. Members of the Millennial generation have expressed a greater willingness to pursue less auto-oriented lifestyles than previous generations, and have been the first to grow up with access to the mobile Internet-connected technologies that are reshaping society and how people connect with one another. These changes could be playing a role in the dramatic reduction in driving among young Americans.
Drive safely this Thanksgiving weekend.