Economy

US Drivers Returning to the Road More Quickly in Red States

Travel on all U.S. highways and roads declined by 13% year over year in June, and cumulative miles driven in the first six months of 2020 fell by 16.6%. Road travel in June fell by the most (19.2%) in the Northeast and by the least (9.9%) in the southern Gulf States.

According to a new study by Michael Sivak published at Green Car Congress, the average decrease in vehicle miles traveled was 17.7% in states that are solidly or likely to vote Democratic and 8.9% in solidly or likely Republican-voting states. In states identified as leaning Democratic, leaning Republican or toss-ups, the decline was 12.7%.

Sivak used Federal Highway Administration (FHA) data for miles traveled in June and political preference data from a June report on Electoral College ratings from the Cook Political report.

States that show a preference for Democrats tend to be more urban than Republican states, but, Sivak noted, “the urban/rural difference does not fully account” for the findings. He bases that judgment on the fact that vehicle miles traveled in June on urban roads fell by 14% compared with a decline of 10.7% fewer miles traveled on rural roads. That difference, Sivak notes, is “a smaller difference than the Democrat/Republican difference” he found in his analysis.

Looking at the raw data, the five blue states where miles traveled fell the most in June were Hawaii (28.7%), Massachusetts (25.0%), Connecticut (24.0%), Washington (23.4%) and Vermont (23.4%).

The five red states where miles traveled fell the least were Tennessee (4.0%), Arkansas (5.6%), Idaho (6.6%), Mississippi (7.1%) and Kansas (down 7.3%). Delaware, a blue state, had the second-lowest decline in miles traveled (5.1%).

According to FHA data, miles traveled on all U.S. roads has declined year over year in each of the four months between March and June. The largest decline came in April when miles traveled fell by more than 40% as Americans were under stay-at-home orders in many states.