Americans drove three trillion miles in 2010—the most since 2007 and the third-highest ever—sharpening the need for continued investment in the nation’s roads, bridges and tunnels, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday (March 2).
Roads and bridges “are the lifeblood
of our economy,” said Transportation
Secretary Ray LaHood.
“More driving means more wear and tear on our nation's roads and bridges,” said LaHood. “This new data further demonstrates why we need to repair the roads and bridges that are the lifeblood of our economy."
Overall, Americans drove 0.7% more—20.5 billion additional vehicle miles— in 2010 than in 2009, LaHood said. December 2010 was the 10th consecutive month of increased driving, as travel for the month increased by 1.4 billion vehicle miles over December 2009.
President Obama has designated $3.2 billion in infrastructure spending as part of his proposed FY 2012 $129 billion budget for the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The $129 billion—a 68% increase over the projected spending for the current fiscal year—would be the first installment in a six-year, $556 billion plan that would also include $30 billion in spending on a new National Infrastructure Bank and $53 billion on high-speed and intercity rail.
Although the roads are more crowded, they are—so far, at least—not more dangerous, DOT reported.
Data for 2009 show major declines in deaths among every category of vehicle—and the fewest highway deaths since 1950, DOT said.
Highway deaths in 2009 fell to 33,808, a 9.7% decline from 2008, even while estimated vehicle miles traveled increased by 0.2 percent.
2009 also saw the lowest fatality and injury rates ever recorded: 1.13 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles, compared to 1.26 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles for 2008. Led by Florida, 41 states recorded reductions in traffic fatalities. An estimated 2.2 million people were injured in 2009, a 5.5% decline from 2008.
Fatalities declined in all vehicle categories, including motorcycles, which saw fatalities fall by 850 from 2008, breaking an 11-year cycle of annual increases.
Rural, Southern Increases
The South Gulf area, a bloc of eight states from Texas to Kentucky, experienced the greatest regional increase in December 2010: 46.6 billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT), an increase of 624 million VMT over the previous December.
With an increase of 11.1%, or 156 million additional miles traveled, Nebraska recorded the largest single-state increase in December, and rural driving outpaced urban driving across the country.
"These data are critical to identifying and evaluating patterns of use on America’s road system, which help us to make decisions about investments in critical infrastructure,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez.
“Repairing our nation’s roads, bridges and tunnels will help us ensure safety, strengthen the economy, and build for the future.”