We've Hit Peak Car

The typical American is driving less and less every year.

The purple line shows the number of miles U.S. citizens drive each year divided by the total U.S. population.

Adjusting by total population, instead of licensed drivers, accounts for trips made on behalf of nondrivers like children. The blue lines show total vehicle registrations and driver’s licenses, also divided by population.

Since the country hit “peak car” in 2005, Americans are now driving the same number of miles they did 15 years ago. That’s the longest downward trend recorded. A weak economy, growing urban populations, rising fuel prices, and lower interest in cars among younger drivers have all contributed to the decline.

Worldwide, the number of miles driven per person is still growing fast in China, but developed markets such as Australia, France, and Japan have also peaked and fallen.

“The trend has been pretty dramatic,” says analyst Doug Short about the U.S. data. “But I think we are eventually going to see it level out.”

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