Record Decline in Driving, Record Level of Conservation

by: Mark J. Perry

The Federal Highway Administration reported that travel during May 2008 on all roads and streets in the nation fell by -3.7% compared to the same month last year. May marks the seventh consecutive month of traffic volume decline compared to the same month in the previous year. Travel YTD through May in 2008 fell by -2.4% compared to 2007.

There was never more than a single monthly decline in traffic volume until 2006, a few examples of two consectutive monthly declines 2006 and early 2007, but never in the history of these data was there ever a period of more than a 2-month consecutive decline until now, and therefore the 7 consecutive monthly decline in miles driven is a record, and represents the most significant adjustment to driving behavior in recent history.

On a moving 12-month total basis, traffic volume in May fell to a three-and-half year low of 2.966 trillion miles, the lowest level since January of 2005 (see chart above), and this measure has fallen in each of the last seven months. Further, the 16 billion mile decrease in May's moving 12-month total was the largest monthly decrease on record, going back to 1983, and marks the most significant moving 12-month decrease in miles driven in at least the last 25 years.

High gas prices are working - consumers are changing their behavior by driving less and conserving gasoline. In fact, high gas prices have probably done more to change behavior and inspire conservation of fossil fuels than all of the Earth Days, and all of the efforts of groups like the Sierra Club, combined? Consumers have "found the religion of environmentalism and conservation" through high gas prices.

Amen, brothers and sisters.