Peak Driving

by: Marc Chandler


Americans, when adjusted for population size, are driving fewer miles.

This is unusual as it is not happening during a recession.

It is suggestive of a larger shift taking place on this side of the crisis.

Pundits have talked about peak oil and peak water, and peak nearly every finite resource. A peak in certain behavior is suggestive of a potential social shift. Paul Kedrosky at Bloomberg tweeted this Great Graphic from It shows the change in miles driven by Americans, adjusted for population. It peaked in June 2005, and has since fallen a little more than 9% to return to levels last seen in 1994.

This decline in miles driven is the largest since the time series began. It is already considerably longer than the pullback seen in the late 1970s/early 1980s. The magnitude of the reduction is also 50% larger. It is also telling that the decline has continued through the economic recovery.

My longer-term work is predicated on the 19th and early 20th century insight that there is a fundamental contradiction at the heart of market economies between the forces of production and social relations. When the contradiction becomes acute, social relations are transformed. Just like social relations changed after the Great Depression, my work finds that social relations are already changing. These include gender relations, the relationship between the sovereign and the citizens, and employers and employees.

It is not simply that the crisis causes the transformation of relationships, as many were already changing. Rather, the crisis may help expedite or help shape those changes. The essays exploring elements of this theme can be found by clicking on the Noteworthy Posts button on the top of the blog.

Disclosure: The author has no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. The author wrote this article themselves, and it expresses their own opinions. The author is not receiving compensation for it. The author has no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.