"People were surprised by the very rapid rise in gas prices, and they changed their driving behavior," said Kenneth A. Small, a transportation economist at the University of California, Irvine. "But my suspicion is that it is temporary. As soon as unemployment gets back to pre-recession levels, we will see Americans doing a lot more driving again."
Small may have been surprised that it didn't take long for Americans to resume their driving habits, recession or not. As reported by U.S. DOT in April, 2010's Transportation Trends in Focus, "Upward Trend in Vehicle-Miles Resumed During 2009":
"After a 2-year interruption to a long-term upward trend, the number of vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) on the Nation's highways appears to have resumed a pattern of upward growth in 2009. While VMT rises and falls seasonally, the years 2007 and 2008 showed significant monthly declines in VMT after the effects of seasonal fluctuations were extracted from the data."
Thanks to Eric Gilbertson