US driving hits new record in 2023, surpassing pre-COVID levels From Reuters

©Reuters. Vehicles are seen leaving the Burning Man festival in Black Rock City, Nevada, U.S., September 4, 2023. REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Travel on U.S. roads rose 2.1% to 3.263 trillion miles in 2023, setting a new annual record and surpassing pre-COVID 19 levels for the first time, the Department of Transportation said on Thursday .

According to preliminary data, road trips overall increased by 67.5 billion miles last year and increased 2.2% in December. In 2019, U.S. motorists drove 3.261 trillion miles per year. Driving in the United States fell sharply after COVID-19 lockdowns were imposed in early 2020, as many people worked from home.

The increase in driving comes as more Americans return to offices to work as companies and federal agencies push workers to return.

The guidance was also aided by lower retail gasoline prices in 2023. U.S. retail gasoline prices averaged $0.43 a gallon last year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy less than in 2022.

The U.S. retail price of regular gasoline averaged $3.52 a gallon last year due to lower prices in 2023 compared to 2022.

In 2020, driving fell 11% to 2.9 trillion miles, the lowest annual total since 2003, then increased 8% in 2021 to 3.14 trillion miles.

Road deaths in the United States increased sharply after the COVID pandemic, but have begun to decline. Road fatalities fell by 4.5% in the first nine months of the year to 30,435.

Traffic deaths in the United States rose 10.5% in 2021 to 42,915, the highest number of deaths on American roads in a year since 2005. As U.S. roads have become less crowded during the pandemic, some drivers have perceived police as less likely to issue tickets, experts said, likely resulting in riskier behavior on the roads, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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