Are you driving your car more? According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there's a good chance that your answer will be "yes."
In the DOT's latest "Traffic Volume Trends" report, it's estimated that American drivers collectively logged over 2.9 trillion miles in their vehicles last year. That's an 0.7 percent increase—20.5 billions more miles—than the previous year and marks the most vehicle miles traveled since 2007.
The "South Gulf" section, composed of the eight states between Texas and Kentucky, showed the biggest change in the number of miles logged by drivers: 46.6 billion miles in Dec. 2010, or an 1.4% increase compared to the previous December. But the neighboring "South Atlantic" region (Florida to Delaware) showed an actual 0.4 percent decrease—about 214 million miles less compared to December 2009.
Nebraskan drivers lead the pack, when it comes to driving much longer distances. The DOT reports vehicles in the cornhusker state traveled over 1.56 trillion miles in December 2010—an estimated 11.1% increase. The state with the greatest drop in vehicle miles traveled: West Virginia with a 3.3% drop from the nearly 1.7 trillion miles tallied in December 2009.
The increased amount of traffic "demonstrates why we need to repair the [nation's] roads and bridges," said DOT Secretary Ray LaHood. But the good news? Despite the rising amount of miles being traveled by American drivers, traffic fatalities and injuries in the U.S. are the lowest since 1950.
Still, if you're spending more time behind the wheel and driving on longer road trips, you'll want to check out our car maintenance tips to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape. And routine maintenance will help keep your car fuel-efficient—an added bonus as gas prices rise nationwide and possibly reach the $4 per gallon by this summer. (And for more fuel saving tips, see: Consumer Reports Guide to fuel economy.)
Nation's Highway Traffic Reaches Highest Level Since 2007 [US Dept. of Transportation]
US DOT: Traffic Volume Trends (Dec. 2010) (PDF) [US DOT report]