Low gas prices encourage near-record driving levels

Michael Strong, CNBC contributor

The recent drop in gas prices encouraged Americans to get out on the roads at near-record levels in 2014, with motorists traveling 3.02 trillion miles, 1.7 percent more than the 2.97 trillion driven in 2013.

The result was the second-highest total ever recorded in the 69 years the data has been tracked, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, behind only the 3.03 trillion miles posted in 2007.

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While low gas prices means it's easier on the bank account to get out and about, there is a downside to so many folks being on the roads.

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"Americans are driving their cars at near-record levels, and being stuck in traffic is costing drivers an average of nearly five days a year," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a press release.

As the price of gas began to fall last August, the miles began ramping up, culminating in 251.4 billion miles in December, a 5 percent jump and the highest December total ever. The move to get behind the wheel was widespread, with every state recording traffic increases in December.

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Indiana motorists recorded the biggest increase at 10.5 percent, followed by Oklahoma at 9.3 percent, Montana at 8 percent and Michigan at 7.9 percent. In fact, motorists in that region, which the Transportation Department calls North Central, drove more miles in December than any other region at 55.4 billion miles: an increase of 6.3 percent.

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