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In the U.S., a driver’s license means greater responsibility and risk, but it also means freedom and flexibility. Nationally, 85 percent of adults aged 16 and older have a driver’s license. Annually, these drivers log 3.2 trillion miles. While many of these miles are accounted for by road trips and family vacations, the majority come from daily commutes and day-to-day business operations.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the average one-way commute time for U.S. workers is 26.9 minutes. That time is up 18 seconds over the previous survey. The additional time may not seem like much, but it represents an extra 2.5 hours on the road each year. Of course, for workers in urban areas, the commute time can be much longer.
Further, U.S. workers generally commute solo. Despite the rise of public transportation, bike lanes, and ridesharing services, the majority of workers (76.4 percent) drive alone. Only 8.9 percent carpool and 5 percent use public transportation. Combined, less than 5 percent of workers walk, bike, or commute by other means.
As the U.S. population has grown, so have the number of vehicles on the road. In fact, the increase in the total number of vehicles on American roads has outpaced population growth since the 1960s. Of the 272 million vehicles (including private and public automobiles, buses, trucks, and motorcycles) driven today, 109 million are privately-owned passenger vehicles.
As the number of vehicles per person has grown, so has the average distance traveled per year. The latest data from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that U.S. drivers log about 10,000 miles per year, up from roughly 7,000 miles in the 1980s. Over the past several decades, the largest increases have occurred in urban areas. As a result, city roads are increasingly congested, prolonging commute times and adding to Americans’ daily stress.
The wasted time spent in the car is also costly. Research firm INRIX found that Americans lose 97 hours a year to traffic jams and slow-moving drivers. The lost hours translate to a cost of $87 billion a year.
That said, the stress and financial strain caused by increased time spent behind the wheel doesn’t impact residents throughout the country uniformly. To identify the most car-dependent states in the U.S., researchers at USInsuranceAgents.com analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Census Bureau. They created a composite car-dependency index based on the following factors and weights:
- Annual miles driven per person – 50%
- Workers who commute by car – 30%
- Number of passenger vehicles per person – 10%
- Adults 16+ with a driver’s license – 10%
Here’s what they found: