Americans Drove Record 746 Billion Miles in Q1 of 2016

By Joe Setyon | June 6, 2016 | 2:47pm EDT

( – U.S. drivers are travelling record distances in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT).

American drivers covered an estimated 746,012,000,000 miles in the first quarter of 2016, according to the new “Traffic Volume Trends” report from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). 

That's an increase of about 26 billion miles over the 720.1 billion miles driven during the first quarter of last year.

( Setyon)

A USDOT press release accompanying the report noted that 746 billion miles is 286.9 times the total distance flown by the International Space Station since 1998, when it first began to orbit the Earth every 90 minutes at a speed of 17,500 mph.

According to NASA, the space station made its 100,000th orbit on May 16th. At that point, it had flown 2,643,342,240 total miles since 1998, or "the distance of 10 round trips to Mars."

But U.S. drivers cover at least twice this distance before noon on a daily basis, according to USDOT.  In March alone, 273.4 billion miles were driven, an increase of 5 percent from March 2015.

The most vehicle miles driven - 60.6 billion - were in the South-Atlantic Region, an area that includes Maryland, Delaware and all the East Coast states south of them.  

Meanwhile, the West Region accounted for 60.3 billion miles driven in March, representing a 4 percent increase from last year, followed by the North-Central (59.3 billion miles), South-Gulf (54.7 billion miles) and North East (38.4 billion miles) Regions.

At the state level, Maryland had the largest increase in vehicle miles driven (8.1 percent) between March 2015 and March 2016, with Connecticut (7.8 percent) and Pennsylvania and Delaware (7.6 percent each) not far behind.

Despite logging the largest increases in vehicle miles driven during March, none of these three states currently have gas prices that are significantly above or below the national average.

According to Triple A, the national average price for regular gas is about $2.36/gallon. This is 12 cents more than Delaware’s $2.24 average, two cents more than Maryland’s $2.34, and 12 cents less than Pennsylvania’s $2.48.

The largest single-month decrease in vehicle miles travelled was in Wyoming (-3.5 percent) "due to heavy snows that caused road closures in February and March," according to USDOT.

USDOT claims the increase in miles driven demonstrates that the “nation’s current infrastructure has ever increasing demands on it,” showing the need for investments in transportation “in both the short and long term.”

Last December, President Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) bill into law.

According to FHWA, the bill designated $305 billion over the next five years for “highway, highway and motor vehicle safety, public transportation, motor carrier safety, hazardous materials safety, rail, and research, technology, and statistics programs.”

Related: DOT Targets Traffic Congestion: States Must Report New Data on Commute Times, Pollution

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