Americans Drove Fewer Miles In 2011 Than Any Year Since 2003

When gas prices go higher, people drive less.

Barack Obama is now achieving a vision that environmentalist ideologues could only dream about in the 1970s: He is driving Americans out of their cars.

In the three decades since American voters threw Jimmy Carter out of office, there have been only two years when Americans did not drive their cars and trucks more miles than the year before. …

Since 1970, the FHA has tracked the “vehicle miles traveled” by Americans each year. It peaked in 2007.

That year, Americans drove a record 3.031 billion miles. In 2008, as might be expected in a severe recession, American curtailed their driving, going only 2.976 billion miles.

But the American urge to drive has clearly decelerated since Obama took office. In 2009, Americans drove only 2.977 billion miles, virtually no change from the 2.976 billion in 2008. In 2010, they drove 2.998 billion, still less than the 2007 peak. And, in 2011, they drove only 2.962 billion.

That is the fewest miles Americans have driven since 2003.

In January of 2009, when President Obama took office, the national average for gas prices was $1.83 per gallon. On Monday of this week, the national average was $3.71.

I’m reminded of this George Will column, from March of 2011, in which he puts his finger on the left’s disdain for the automobile:

Forever seeking Archimedean levers for prying the world in directions they prefer, progressives say they embrace high-speed rail for many reasons—to improve the climate, increase competitiveness, enhance national security, reduce congestion, and rationalize land use. The length of the list of reasons, and the flimsiness of each, points to this conclusion: the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.

To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they—unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted—are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.

The left hates cars for any number of reasons. The freedom of mobility is one, but also because of “global warming” which as become their catch-all for justifying all intrusions upon individual liberty.

President Obama claims that he would be crazy to want higher gas prices during an election year. The President’s caveat on higher prices during an election year is interesting. Of course he wants higher gas prices in general. He just doesn’t want the negative political fallout from said prices.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • SigFan

    Couple the high fuel prices with the rise in unemployment as well.  Fewer people working equates to fewer people driving to work.  I notice a big difference around Pittsburgh these days, and our unemployment level is below the national average by a considerable margin.  

  • Econwarrior

    “The left hates cars for any number of reasons. The freedom of mobility is one, but also because of “global warming”…”

    Before “global warming”, it was “global cooling” and the lie that we were running out of oil.  Individual freedom runs counter to the liberal agenda.  Fewer miles driven is a result of higher cost per mile; supply and demand at work.

  • Bat One

    The drop in miles driven is all the more startling when one considers that there were roughly 10 million fewer Americans in 2003 than there were last year.  And that’s not including all the illegal Mexican aliens who’ve scurried across the border in the past 8 years.

  • Davoarid

    Fewer people driving…what, that just means more people traveling via bus, or subway, or light rail, or carpooling, right?

    These are all good things. It builds a sense of community, makes it harder to ignore the suffering of our neighbors.

    • Dave

       It means more people out of work and on unemployment and sitting home.

  • realitybasedbob

    So…demand is down, supplies are up, there is more drilling now than ever and…prices are going up.

    The invisible hand is fucking up.

    • Demosthenes

      Thanks Bob, now I am kinda pissed. You simplify it but really if the demand is lower then in 2003 why are we seeing higher prices then ? Inflation?

      Wrecked my day cause I just remember I need to fill up.

      • realitybasedbob

        Please tell us what the inflation rate has been since 03 compared to the rise in gas at the pump price.

        Wall Street owns the oil.
        They speculate on it’s worth.
        We paid the price.

        Oh, and Iran, India, China, Brazil.

        • Demosthenes

          That is what I am saying, what can cab eb the cause? Isn’t this against basic economics?

          • realitybasedbob

            It certainly seems so.

            We have greatly increased oil production under President Obama, the amount of oil imported since 2009 is down about 8%, America’s #1 export is now gasoline, American demand is down, supplies are up and the cost at the pump is (already?) at record highs.

            Why is that?

          • Dave

             Where is this increased production taking place? And, since obama and those on the left claim that it takes almost ten years to get the oil to the gas pump, who would really be responsible for the increase in production? Bush and Clinton come to mind.

          • realitybasedbob

            Well Dave, just about anybody who keeps up with the news or knows how to use a Googler can tell you where the increased production is taking place.

            Do you know someone like  that?

          • Dave

             “Do you know someone like  that?”

            Yes, I do. Is oil production actually up in the six or states, or is it just playing with numbers because obama has shut down production offshore,?

          • A Citizen

            Bob: You’re right about production being up. It’s up on state and private land, and way down on federal land. AKA Obamaland.

    • Econwarrior

      Wrong again.  Since Carter handed over control of world oil prices to his OPEC buddies, they have determined the world oil price.  If you don’t like these prices, thank OPEC(and Carter).

      • realitybasedbob

        Carter did that, huh?

    • Jfisher17

      World-wide demand is up, sorry.