Driving dips in Florida, U.S. as economy cools
Wake up and good morning. Motorists in Florida cut their driving by more than 1-billion miles in November, according to new data from the Federal Highway Administration, a sign that the weak economy kept more drivers off the road in spite of lower gas prices. The FHA is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In November, drivers in Florida logged 15.527-billion miles in the state, a 6.3 percent decline from November 2007 -- when gas prices were higher. That compares with a 5.3-percent drop nationwide.
Overall, the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports, Americans cut their driving by more than 112-billion miles over the past 13 months, based on Federal Highway Administration numbers. The story notes the falling number of miles dwarfs the 49.9-billion decline in the 1970s, a decade characterized by high gas prices, fuel shortages and a recession.
Federal Highway Administration spokesman Doug Hecox suggests some trends in the driving data. The new data indicates factors other than gas prices -- including unemployment and a decline in housing prices -- were affecting driving patterns. Hecox told the WSJ a steeper drop-off in rural driving showed "an overall shift in American consumer planning to coordinate trips more efficiently." Initially, the agency believed the decline would be greater in urban areas, where there is more access to public transportation. He also noted a rising interest by Americans to be more "green" and drive less.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist