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Trillions of Miles! U.S. Sets Driving Record in 2015

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CARS.COM — Jobs drive the economy, and workers drive to their jobs. With the country’s unemployment rate now under 5 percent -an eight-year low and wages rising, Americans are driving more than ever, putting an all-time record of more than 3.1 trillion miles on the national odometer in 2015.

Related: Congress Passes, President Signs New Highway Bill: What It Means to You

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, the nearly 3.15 trillion miles Americans drove by the end of 2015 beat the previous record of 3 trillion miles set in 2007, before the economic recession. The mileage milestone was calculated as part of the latest Traffic Volume Trends report, released this week.

“For a sense of scale, 3.148 trillion miles is roughly the same distance as 337 round trips from Earth to Pluto,” the administration stated.

Not only did U.S. motorists accumulate more miles overall last year, but seasonally adjusted figures – which account for variations in travel at different times of the year for consistent month-to-month comparisons across years increased as well. In December, for example, motorists logged 268.5 billion miles, a 4 percent increase over the previous December’s seasonally adjusted figure, the FHWA reported.

Motor vehicle travel, including passenger vehicles, buses and trucks, went up in all five U.S. regions studied last year. Unsurprisingly, the West region led the pack at nearly 62 billion miles in December alone, and even less surprisingly, California led all other states with the largest single-state percentage mileage increase, up 11.3 percent compared with the same month a year earlier. The Golden State was followed by Hawaii and Arkansas, with 7.2 and 6.2 percent increases, respectively.

While still outpacing the previous year, the Northeast region logged the fewest miles in December at 38.7 billion. Meanwhile, Washington, D.C., showed the largest single-month percentage decrease at 4.6 percent.

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Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt Schmitz

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