In fact, the year-over-year decrease in miles driven by Americans in 2008 over 2007 is more dramatic than other periods of decline, including the days of the long gas lines during the “oil price shock” in 1973, and the stock market crash of 1973-1974.
From January to December, cumulative 2008 travel dropped nationwide by 107.9 billion vehicle miles of travel (VMT), a decline of 3.6 percent, according to the latest Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) report.
All told, the yearly VMT decline dwarfs the 49.9 billion VMT decline of the 1970s, a decade characterized by high gas prices, fuel shortages and a recession.
Cumulative travel for 2008 is nearly 2.922 trillion VMT, federal officials estimate. In 2007, VMT totaled 3.029 trillion.
Even so, VMT picked up in December 2008 in many places across the country.
After registering a 7.5 percent drop in New Jersey for November 2008, the December decrease was just 0.8 percent. April 2008 is the most recent month VMT in New Jersey increased year-over-year, FHWA reports.
In New Jersey, 2008 VMT dropped by 2.4 billion miles to 71.84 billion VMT, a 3.2 percent decrease from 2007.
“This is a trend set into motion in November of 2007, with fuel prices eventually skyrocketing to the highest-ever price eighth months later,” AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman David Weinstein said. “Normally, Americans drive three trillion miles a year. But nothing is normal any longer.”