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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

U.S. Driving Last Year Was Lowest in Two Decades, New Data Show

Thursday, February 25, 2021

FHWA 04-21
Contact: Doug Hecox
Tel.: (202) 366-0660

WASHINGTON – After six consecutive years of gradual increases in vehicle-miles traveled (VMT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) today released new year-end estimates showing total U.S. driving fell by 13.2% – from 3.3 trillion VMT in 2019 to 2.83 trillion in 2020. This decrease 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 (USDOT) is committed to building back better,” said Acting Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack. “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 USDOT 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, which helps contribute to priority efforts to address the nation’s climate crisis.

The December 2020 “Traffic Volume Trends” report also includes seasonally adjusted data, which is calculated by BTS to account for seasonal variation in travel and enable VMT comparisons with any other month in any year. The estimates include passenger vehicle, bus and truck travel.

For the latest FHWA’s “Traffic Volume Trend” data, click here.

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