WASHINGTON, D.C. --- If you've seen a dip in your fleet's number of fender benders this year, the reason may be linked to the fact that there are simply fewer cars on the road these days.
New estimates released March 19 show the decline in American driving continued in January 2009 with 7 billion fewer vehicle miles traveled, or 3.1 percent less, compared to the same month a year earlier. This is the first back-to-back decline for January since 1981-1982.
The decline now exceeds 122 billion vehicle miles traveled, compared to the same 14-month period -- December 2006 to January 2008 -- a year earlier. A recent end-of-the-year data calibration adjusted the November 2007 data, revealing that the trend did not begin in November 2007, as originally reported, but rather in December 2007.
As it has since the trend began, the decline in rural driving in January 2009 outpaced urban driving.
The new data show the North Central area -- a bloc of 12 states ranging from Ohio to the Dakotas -- experienced the biggest regional decline at 6 percent fewer vehicle miles traveled compared to January 2008. At 10.2 percent fewer vehicle miles traveled, Ohio led the nation with the largest single-state decline that month.
Despite the overall national decline, the West -- a bloc of 13 states including Hawaii and Alaska -- posted an increase of .2 percent. It is the West's first increase in estimated vehicle miles traveled since the national decline began.