Driving: It’s How Americans Spend 70 Billion Hours a Year

February 27, 2019 by Paul Ausick

Source: raksyBH / iStock
Whether it’s from the love of the open road or necessity, Americans spend a lot of time behind the wheel. About 70 billion hours a year, according to the American Driving Survey for 2014 through 2017 from AAA.

Men spent nearly an hour (55.4 minutes) driving every day of the year in 2016 and 2017. Women spent 46.4 minutes a day behind the wheel. Combined, men and women between the ages of 25 and 34 drive for 58.2 minutes a day while those aged 35 to 49 drive for 59.6 minutes a day, the most of any age group.

On virtually every metric that AAA looked at, Americans drove more in 2016 and 2017 than in the previous two-year period. Overall, 87.2% of U.S. residents over the age of 16 said that they drove at least occasionally. On average, U.S. drivers made 2.2 trips per day and spent 51 minutes driving every day of the week. The average number of miles driven per day rose from 29.9 to 31.5.

AAA’s survey was conducted by telephone and the results were reported for a two-year period, 2016 and 2017, and then compared to the previous survey for 2014 and 2015.

The primary reason for the rising averages was an increase in the number of drivers from 222.2 million in 2014–2015 to 225.8 million in 2016–2017. All those new drivers made an additional 8 billion trips and traveled an additional 200 billion miles. All told, U.S. drivers logged 2.6 trillion miles in 2016–2017. Said another way, U.S. drivers spend just over 3.5% of all their time driving.

Women make more trips per day than men: 2.34 to 2.10. People who live in the West spend 58.9 minutes every day behind the wheel compared to Midwesterners, who spend 44.5 minutes a day driving.

The more education people have, the more time they spend driving. Americans with at least a college degree spend 57 minutes a day driving compared to 41.6 minutes for those without a high-school diploma.

Older Americans spend less time driving than any other age group, but the rate of increase between the two periods for drivers older than 75 was the highest, rising from 28.3 minutes in 2014–2015 to 34.8 minutes.

How much gasoline does all that driving require? According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the average fuel efficiency of the U.S. light vehicle fleet in 2016 was 22 miles per gallon. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that total U.S. consumption of crude oil in 2017 reached nearly 20 million barrels a day, from which 9.33 million barrels of gasoline and 3.93 million barrels of diesel fuel were refined and used.

Visit the AAA website to read the full report.

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