I’ve never heard this metric before, although the U.S. Federal Highway Administration tracks and publishes it every month. Maybe it will become a number everyone watches nervously, like the Dow-Jones average, the Body Mass Index, or the weekend movie box office gross. What we need is a comparable measure of monthly miles walked. Call it the Flaneur’s Index.
America’s bulimic driving binge was duly reported in France by AFP:
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Americans drove around 4.5 billion fewer miles in April compared with the same month last year, marking the lowest mileage clocked on US roads for the month since 2003, a report showed Thursday.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) said in its monthly report that the number of vehicle miles driven in the United States fell by 1.8 percent, to 245.9 billion, based on preliminary data from the state highway authorities across the United States.
The number of miles traveled in April 2003 was 239.7 billion, FHA data show.
The miles traveled on US roads rose from 132.7 billion miles in 1983 to a peak of 250.9 billion miles in 2004, according to the data on the FHA website.
Most years from 1983 to 2004, with the exception of April 1990 and 1991, when the United States was engaged in the Gulf War, the number of miles Americans drove rose by several billion miles.
But beginning in 2004, the number of miles Americans put in on the roads annually began falling between 100 and 300 million miles.
And this year, the fall accelerated sharply on a yearly comparison to 4.4 billion miles.
Observers surmise a possible link between the declining number of miles driven and rising US gasoline prices.
According to a report released in April 2004 by the Congressional Research Service, the average price for petrol in the United States during the summer of 2003 was 1.74 dollars per gallon (around 3.5 liters).
Today, gasoline prices across the United States are around 3.5 times higher, averaging more than four dollars per gallon.