Lower Gas Prices Encouraged Summer Driving

STATE—New Jersey motorists drove nearly 6.3 billion miles in July 2009, a 2.1% increase over July 2008, new federal data shows.

It’s the second straight month Garden State motorists have driven more miles compared to the same months in 2008. In June 2009, Garden State motorists increased their driving by 1% compared to the same month a year earlier, the data show.


“This is a positive sign that the summer driving season was actually a summer driving season in New Jersey,” AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman David Weinstein said, “and not a stay-at-home season.” The Federal Highway Administration will release its August data in mid- to late-October.

These are the first consecutive months Garden State motorists have increased their driving, year-over-year, since September and October 2007, AAA Mid-Atlantic noted.
Another positive sign gleaned from the federal data is that, as July VMT goes historically, July 2009 was a banner year in New Jersey. Motorists drove more miles in July 2009 than in the six previous months of July.

The increase in New Jersey’s July 2009 VMT compared to a year earlier makes perfect sense, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Gas prices were drastically cheaper compared to a year ago,” Weinstein said. “In this case, the pump prices made all the difference.”

The July 2008 average price for a gallon of regular serve in the Garden State was $3.96, hitting a record high for the state on July 8 of $4 per gallon. The July 2009 average price for the same gallon was $2.44, more than $1.50 per gallon less expensive.

Nationwide, VMT rose by almost 6 billion, or 2.3%, in July compared to the same month in 2008. The increase in VMT across the nation in July marks the third year-over-year rise in four months. May 2009 registered a small nationwide decrease over May 2008.

Cumulatively nationwide, motorists have logged 1.71 trillion VMT, which is essentially flat compared to the same period, cumulatively, in 2008.

Only two states – Nevada and Minnesota – and the District of Columbia, recorded decreased VMTs in July, the data show. South Dakota had the biggest VMT increase in July, at 8.8%.

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