Americans drove 12.2 billion miles less in June from a year ago as high gasoline prices cut the number of highway miles traveled during the month by 4.7 percent, the U.S. Transportation Department said Wednesday.
It was the eight month in a row that driving declined, as Americans have changed their travel habits, switched to more fuel-efficient cars and used public transportation.
Since last November, U.S. motorists have driven 53.2 billion fewer miles than they did over the same period a year earlier, topping the 1970s total drop in U.S. miles traveled of 49.3 billion miles that was caused by several recessions and spikes in gasoline prices during the decade.
The decline in miles traveled since last November has occurred the most in rural areas, where travel has fallen by 4 percent, compared to the 1.2 percent drop in urban miles traveled, the department detailed.
High fuel costs have the biggest effect on individuals in rural areas, who normally drive more and spend a larger share of their income on gasoline.
The downside for the government is less money to pay for highway projects and public transportation, which is funded by an 18.4 cent-per-gallon gasoline tax and a 24.4 cent-per-gallon diesel fuel tax.
"Advances in higher fuel-efficiency vehicles and alternative fuels are making the gas tax an even less sustainable support for funding roads, bridges and transit systems," said Transportation Secretary Mary Peters.