During the Great Recession, there were fewer people driving. High unemployment rates meant fewer people were commuting and meant many people did not have the money to drive frequently or take long trips. High gas prices also contributed to a decline in the number of people on the roads.
Now, improving economic conditions and falling gas prices have dramatically changed the driving landscape nationwide. In 2015, there were more miles driven in American than at any other time in U.S. history, according to the Chicago Tribune. Unfortunately, a record number of miles being driven has resulted in the roads becoming much more unsafe. Car accident rates are higher and drivers need to understand they face added dangers on the roads.
More Driving Means More Accidents In the U.S.
The Federal Highway Administration considers all vehicle miles driven, including by cars, trucks, and buses, to determine the total miles driven throughout America over the course of a year. In 2015, there were 3.15 trillion miles driven throughout America. The distance this spans would be enough for 337 round trip visits to Pluto. It was the highest number of miles ever driven.
While this was a record high in terms of total miles, it is still not a record high in terms of per capita miles driven. On average in 2015, the average number of miles driven per person was 9,794. Back in 2004, the per capita miles driven was 10,105. The total miles driven was higher even when the per capita record was not beaten because of the population growth in the United States which has occurred since 2004. When there are more people driving, the total miles driven can be higher even if each person is not driving as many miles.
The increase in miles driven from 2014 to 2015 was four percent, which is the largest year-to-year increase in the number of miles driven since the 1980's. Unfortunately, the increase in the fatality rate from 2014 to 2015 was the largest in 50 years. Eight percent more people died in car accidents over the course of 2015 as compared with just a year before. This increase in deaths can be attributed, in part, to the fact more people are driving.
One big reason why so many more people are driving, and why so many more miles are being driven, is the significant decline in the price of a gallon of gas. In many parts of the United States, it is now possible to purchase gas for less than $1.50 per gallon whereas just a few short years ago prices generally topped $4 per gallon. Drivers can afford to drive more when the gas prices are so much lower.
Low gas prices are expected to continue into 2016, which means this year could be another dangerous one on the road. However, drivers can reduce the chances of accidents by being cautious, assertive, and proactive drivers who refrain from dangerous behaviors.