If any questions remain about how thoroughly gas prices this year have impacted U.S. drivers, statistics for the month of May seem to have settled them.
The Federal Highway Administration has released nationwide figures that show Americans drove 9.6 billion fewer miles that month than in May '07, a 3.7% drop. This is the largest decline for the month of May since the federal agency began tracking those statistics, which happened 66 years ago.
This also brings 2008's five-month total of miles traveled to 29.6 billion miles less than 2007. Three of the largest declines for individual months have occurred in this time span, with May topping the list.
Consumers have buckled down in many ways, using public transportation more, driving less, and — we hope — utilizing gas-saving tips, like those found on KickingTires.
An unintended consequence of reduced fuel use has been a decline in revenue for the Highway Trust Fund, which gets its money from the federal gas tax. With people driving significantly less, the fund is losing money. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said in a statement that the decline in revenue pointed toward a problem for the future.
As plug-in hybrids hit the roads and Americans find other means and technologies to reduce their gas consumption, the Highway Trust Fund will have to find a different revenue source if we want to keep our highways from crumbling into disrepair.
Driving Drops Again (The Washington Post)