U.S. driving in 2020 lowest in two decades, FHWA data shows

Year-end estimates show total U.S. driving fell by 13.2% in 2020

February 26, 2021 / 1 minute read
traffic congestion

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) this week released new year-end estimates showing total U.S. driving fell by 13.2%—from 3.3 trillion vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) in 2019 to 2.83 trillion in 2020.

This decrease comes after six consecutive years of gradual increases in VMT, and equates to an estimated reduction of nearly 170 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

“As the Biden Administration works to get the pandemic under control and rebuild the economy, the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) is committed to building back better,” Acting Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack said in a statement. “As we get Americans back to work, we will do our part to offer cleaner transportation options by investing in transit and safer streets for biking and walking.”

The latest VMT data, published in FHWA’s December 2020 “Traffic Volume Trends” report—a monthly estimate of U.S. road travel—show that, combined, all miles driven on public roads and highways in 2020 is the lowest since 2002. Nationwide closures of businesses, schools, and other economic factors related to the nation’s ongoing health crisis are thought to be key factors in the year’s estimated 430.2 billion VMT decrease.

Despite a significant reduction in overall traffic volume, preliminary data from the U.S. DOT show that roadway fatalities fell only slightly—by an estimated 2% for the first six months of the year. At the same time, last year’s traffic decline contributed to cleaner air due to a significant reduction in carbon emissions.

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SOURCE: Federal Highway Administration

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