Jeremy Thurman on May 14, 2013
A report released today by the U.S. PIRG shows that after a six decade-long period of increased driving in the United States, Americans are driving less. The data compiled from 1946 forward, shows that a steady increase in per-capita driving in the United States that has finally begun to decrease.
The report points to the unique combination of conditions: cheap gas prices, rapid expansion of the workforce during past generations, etc. no longer exist. The report shows that Americans drive no more miles today than in 2004, despite previous estimates that drivers and time on the road would consistently increase.
While report author, Phineas Baxandall noted that people tend to drive less during recessions, he also suggested that this shift in driving trends preceded the recent recession, and appears to have more to do with a shift of generational demographics. Baxandall pointed to the rise of the millennial generation, and the shift in that generation away from settings that require a lot of driving, towards cities that have more public transportation. “Millennials aren’t driving cars,” he urged.
Millennials, or people born between 1983 and 2000) are the largest generation in the United States. Data shows that by 2030, Millennials will be the largest population in the peak driving demographic (ages 35-54). The shift that has occurred away from such a heavy reliance on driving in this generation, is in part a symptom of the recent recession, but is also a shift in generational values.
PIRG urges that millennials are more likely to live in urban walkable neighborhoods than previous generations, and are generally more open to other forms of transportation. Likewise, “They are also the first generation to fully embrace mobile internet-connected technologies, which are rapidly spawning new transportation options and shifting the way young Americans relate to one another, creating new avenues for living connected, vibrant lives that are less reliant on driving.”
The data suggests several different predicted outcomes over the next few decades, but regardless of which way the numbers go, it seems likely that driving in the U.S. will see a slower increase than in the past. With that trend, there will hopefully be a natural decrease in the number of accidents nationwide.