Despite Lower Gas Prices, Americans Driving Less

According to the Federal Highway Administration, the number of miles driven in the U.S. declined by 4.4% since last year.
November 21, 2008, 9am PST | Tim Halbur
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"Unlike previous cycles, cheaper gas hasn't inspired Americans to drive more. While some of their reluctance to return to their old ways may be due to the bad economy, some transportation experts say something bigger is happening.

"People are changing their driving habits," says Jack Finn, senior vice president and national director of toll services for HNTB, a major consulting firm based in Kansas City. "They're taking less trips, there's less driving, more carpooling and part of that lifestyle change will continue."

Tony Douglas is a good example. Douglas, 46, gave up driving the 26 miles from Gallatin, Tenn., to his office in Nashville in September, when gas prices were still high. He took a bus instead.

Driving cost him $8 to $10 a day while the bus was $6. Now that gas prices have dropped and the cost benefits are gone, he's still on the bus.

"It's much more relaxing: reclining seats, TVs and it takes about an hour, too," Douglas says. "I'm able to watch CNN in the morning."

Plus, his stay-at-home wife has a car she can use, and it's better for the environment, he says. Douglas is an environmental manager for a company that works with the military to build sustainable housing on bases. "Everybody got an economics lesson and a lot more people are going to have their eyes open as far as carpooling," he says."

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Published on Thursday, November 20, 2008 in USA Today
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