Driving in the US may have peaked in 2004, study finds

August 5, 2013 12:00 AM

Many people may believe that the auto industry began stalling in 2008, following the downturn of the U.S. economy. However, new research from the University of Michigan shows that driving in America began declining several years before. According to the report, the total number of miles driven in light vehicles peaked in 2004 and subsequently fell 5 to 9 percent through 2011, The New York Times reports. 

Researchers used information on the total distance driven per person, per vehicle, per licensed driver and per household to get the results. Numbers have decreased across the board since 2004, with only a temporary uptick in the amount of light-duty fleet vehicle driving in 2006 bucking the trend. 

"I'm reasonably confident that 2006 was a temporary peak in driving," Michael Sivak, a research professor at the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute, told the publication. "I'm less confident that the peaks in the rates reached in 2004 are temporary." 

There are a number of reasons why driving has decreased since 2004. The expansion of public transportation and telecommuting made it easier for people to cut cars out of their daily lives, while the rough economy made it more costly to own and operate a vehicle after the recession. Now that costs of ownership and auto repair is coming down, there may soon be an influx of drivers heading out on the roads. 

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