Driving

DRIVING….Here’s the latest from the Department of Transportation: total miles driven in May were down 3.7% from last year, the first significant May decline since they started keeping records in 1983, and even bigger than April’s 1.6% drop. What’s interesting, though, is that this change isn’t as sudden as it sometimes seems: it’s actually been building for a couple of years. This chart shows things a little more clearly, and you can see that driving started leveling off as early as 2006 before finally beginning to decline this year.

In one sense this is impressive: 3.7% is a fairly sizable drop. On the other hand, considering that gasoline prices have doubled since 2005, it’s also a remarkably restrained response. It’ll be interesting to see if these declines are permanent, or if driving volume goes back up as people get used to higher prices.

And in case you’re interested, the steepest decline was in Michigan, where driving is down 7.4%. At the other end is North Dakota, the only state to laugh in the face of $4 gas. Their driving was up 0.7% in May.