By on April 30, 2021

vehicle miles traveled VMT

In March, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. According to the Auto Care Association, this was the first month since August 2019 that VMT topped 300 million miles. To give you some perspective, the distance between the earth and the moon is only 238,856 miles, according to Wikipedia.

vehicle miles traveled VMT

Last year, U.S. drivers were stuck in traffic an average of 26 hours. This was a steep decline from 99 hours prior to the pandemic. Arstechnica.com reported German drivers averaged the same number as Americans last year, down from 46 the year prior. In the UK, it was 37 last year, and 115 before COVID-19. Inrix, a traffic analytics company, collected the data for their 2020 Global Traffic Scorecard. They tracked mobility in 1,000 cities around the world based on travel times. All of this was due to fewer people traveling to work, especially downtowns and central business districts.

The worst traffic was in New York City, up from 4th the year before. Drivers there spent 100 hours in traffic in 2019. In 2020, New Yorkers spent 28 percent less time stuck in traffic, traveled 28 percent fewer miles, and had 38 percent fewer crashes. Washington, D.C. had the biggest decline, where drivers spent 29 hours idling, a 77 percent decrease from pre-pandemic times. Still, they only had 26 percent fewer accidents and a 25 percent decrease in VMT.

We documented previously the rental car fiasco, one that will likely be compounded as we resume air travel. It’ll be interesting to see if rental car companies restock their fleets, or if Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services continue to grow to meet the needs of travelers.

vehicle miles traveled VMT

This brings us back to the shortage of new and used cars. In Spring and Summer 2020, used car sales took off, before settling down the remainder of the year. New car sales would accelerate right now if the OEMs had the chips to get them rolling. Factory shutdowns will likely continue until chip production can be scaled to match. 

Yeah, we’re back on the road again. It’s great for the garages and shops that service your vehicle, and the parts business too. Parts sales accelerated during the pandemic, and it doesn’t appear as though it will tail off even as we regain our mobility.

[Images: Mercedes-Benz, Auto Care Association]

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47 Comments on “Vehicle Miles Traveled On The Rise Again...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    But but the plandemic is going to get us all, how can all the proles dare leave their homes and not social distance with six masks on?

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      I can assure you that I’ve been working and shopping away from home through the entire pandemic. Wearing a mask and physical distancing are not that hard to do.
      And the over 100 million of us that have been fully vaccinated do not have to worry very much about the “plandemic” “getting us”.
      It’s just another life obstacle to be overcome.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I have as well, as have most other people albeit it on a more limited basis.

        “the over 100 million of us that have been fully vaccinated do not have to worry very much about the “plandemic” “getting us”.”

        Tell Karen when you see her for me please?

        I seriously do hope the not-vaccine’s long term side effects are minimal.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          We’ll need a booster in a year’s time. There is still a risk of catching SARS-COV-2. In theory symptoms should be less severe. Data out of the USA indicates around a 7% infection rate among vaccinated people. That compares favorably to preliminary data like Pfizer’s 96% effectiveness rate.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “Professor Rosemary Boyton, Professor of Immunology and Respiratory Medicine at Imperial College London, who led the research, said: “Our findings show that people who have had their first dose of vaccine, and who have not previously been infected with SARS-CoV-2, are not fully protected against the circulating variants of concern. This study highlights the importance of getting second doses of the vaccine rolled out to protect the population.””

            https://www.zerohedge.com/covid-19/uk-study-finds-pfizer-vaccine-doesnt-offer-full-protection-mutant-covid-strains

          • 0 avatar
            SPPPP

            It remains to be seen how long immunity will actually last. (Which, by the way, seems to be the main reason why we haven’t cured the common cold in a century’s worth of research. Coronaviruses simply refuse to stay cured.) The preliminary info I have seen is effective for “at least 6 months” and “maybe up to 2 or 3 years”.

            Like it or not, it seems we may be arguing about this stupid illness for the rest of our natural lives.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @SPPPP – I suspect that SARS-COV-2 will be around indefinitely. Booster shots or annual vaccines along the lines of annual flu shots will become the norm.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            The booster won’t be bad since at some point we’ll have mrna flu vaccine and it could be combined with covid. Maybe vaccines for some other viruses that we haven’t had vaccines for in the past thrown into to mix. MRNA is bringing us into a new era for vaccines.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @mcs:

            Agreed, I think COVID boosters will end up as “this year’s flu shot,” in essence.

            I’m just relieved as hell I got my second shot.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            @Lou_BC: They can actually combine them at some point. It (MRNA influenza) will need approval, so probably not this year, but eventually.

            I was lucky and able to get both of mine early. Some of my AI and high-performance computing work brings me into research facilities in teaching hospitals and I get some funding from a medical school, I was considered a non-covid facing medical worker. I managed to get the shot a couple of weeks sooner. They had a superefficient operation. Rows of chairs that they sat you in and the vaccinators moved along with cart so you stayed in place. Less than a minute to wait for the shot. In and out in probably 18 minutes.

            I’m still being careful with sanitizing. It’s been nice not getting other things like colds and sore throats.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Got that Johnson and Johnson before it got suspended. 1 Shot, 1 kill.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      You’re being a bit hyperbolic, 28, don’t you think? “They” never said COVID would kill everyone, or that everyone would even get it. “They” just said it’s a lot more dangerous than “standard” flu…and “they” were right on target about that. You could ask my ex-father-in-law about the lethality of COVID if you’re handy with a Quija board.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        The whole point of social distancing, masks, and restrictions on travel etc. is to slow spread and minimize suffering and death. Vaccines aren’t the “end” just the best control.
        Once health care systems are maxed out, we would see suffering and death on a mind-numbing scale. I fear that’s where India is heading.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I have been mostly in the office and still traveling most of the last year. I can’t speak for every field or every workplace but at mine, if you have been working from home since last March there are serious discussions going on as to weather or not you need to come back. Not as in continuing to work from home, but as in continuing to be employed there. I fear these sorts of conversations are happening across the country and some folks are in for a nasty surprise.

    • 0 avatar
      teddyc73

      I go about my daily normal life maskless all the time. Have been during this entire thing. I have chosen not to follow the sheep. In fact, I think I had Covid and I’ve had colds that were far worse. I refuse to live my life in fear. And I drive, drive and drive my big pick up everywhere. At least until the dementia patient in the White House is told by those controlling him to ban the internal combustion engine.

      • 0 avatar
        RHD

        Teddy, we have a few I-don’t-give-a-####ers like you around where I live as well.
        You’re not clever, you are just the weakest link.

        • 0 avatar
          dantes_inferno

          Here’s a novel idea: DISCIPLINE. Focus on prevention. Build up your immune system, keep up your Vitamin D levels and cut out the junk food, processed foods and processed sugars (including alcohol). It has been a game changer for me over the years.

          It also has the additional benefit of lessening the severity of reactions to flu shots, COVID shots, etc.

          And it reduces/eliminates dependency on meds as you age.

          You get the health benefits from your body based on your efforts towards maintaining your health.

          Most of those severely affected by COVID had pre-existing conditions or poor health (including Vitamin D deficiency).

          Common sense, in a nutshell.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The good thing to come out of our isolation during the pandemic is less people have gotten the flu or the common cold. Might still be a good idea to wear masks when indoors in a crowded environment and to wash you hands with antibacterial soap at least during the Winter months. We might have to get an annual booster shot for COVID along with flu shoots.

    I will probably continue to drive less except for the weekly trip to the grocery store and Costco. I might take a couple of road trips especially to the Biltmore and a few trips to places like the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky and maybe the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green KY.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @jeffs: Here’s a good metric proving that the masks, social distancing, and sanitizing really do work. COld medicine sales down:

      https://www.ibj.com/articles/cold-medicine-sales-plummet-amid-pandemic

      https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/pharmacy-cold-flu-medication-sales-drop-1.5953695

      https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-01-21/more-masks-means-fewer-germs-hitting-p-g-s-cold-medicine-sales

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I don’t think people are going to keep this mask stuff up once the pandemic has died down. I won’t. Colds I can deal with. Maybe I can even deal with COVID. What I can’t deal with – thus the masks and social distancing – is the idea that I gave COVID to someone who’s not as healthy as I am and can’t handle it.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I have every intention of continueing to wear masks while on airplanes. I have sinus issues, and I have found that the added humidification of wearing the mask is a game changer for me in the bone-dry air of an airplane cabin. With the gasper pointed at my head it doesn’t bother me in the slightest to have the mask on.

          Wearing them shopping in humid big box stores in FL sucks though, can’t wait to not have to do THAT anymore. Fully vaccinated for a month now, thankfully.

  • avatar

    There too many people on the Earth. On the other hand our planet has limited resources and cannot support increasing world population especially in urban areas. Locking people at homes only increases birth rate. We did not have World War for last 70 years. Goodbye Pax Americana! Welcome Pax Sinica! We have to allow nature to do it’s thing and balance world population.

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      Virus was made in the LAB

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        No, you *believe* COVID was made in the lab, just like some folks believe George W. Bush OK’d 9/11, and others believe the CIA assassinated John F. Kennedy.

        Are those things possible? I suppose so. Is there any evidence to prove either theory? Nope.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @redapple – LOL. No evidence of genetic manipulation.

        @Inside Looking Out – You have a rather dark view of humanity.

        “We have to allow nature to do it’s thing” Easy to say when you’re not the one sick, starving, suffering and dying.

        • 0 avatar

          Lou_BC, how do you know that am not sick and I’m not dying? May be the opposite is true? Everything in life is temporary except of Death. Death lasts for eternity.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @inside looking out

            There’s a huge difference between accepting the fact that we all die and saying that we need to let a massive swath of humanity die.

            If that’s your philosophy, we might as well close every hospital and school that educated healthcare professionals. Death is inevitable but one can alleviate pain and suffering which improves life on the way to that end.
            As far as whether you are sick and dying, that’s your journey and I hope that you have support through it.

            There’s a term in cancer care we use:”actively dying”. It acknowledges that we all will die eventually, and acknowledges the fact that one has now transitioned to one’s final end of life.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          We are all going to die and have been doing it since the day we were born.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        “Virus made in lab”
        It doesn’t have the “signature” that is present in a lab-made virus.

    • 0 avatar
      teddyc73

      “There too many people on the Earth.” Who makes that determination? What criteria is being used to make that statement? If you believe the world has to many people are you including your family, friends, and relative? Should we start by eliminating them or are you only referring to other people? Let’s have a little common sense and perspective here.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Agree social distancing, masks, and sanitizing work. Might be good to incorporate those practices during the Winter months when colds and flu are at their worst.

    As for population the US has a declining birth rate. Globally it has increased but it is projected to flatten by 2061 and from there decrease. In most developed and developing countries births are declining as more women are working and waiting to have children.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Interesting side note about the birth rate – I figured COVID would cause an epic baby boom. I mean, stuck at home, with nothing to do…might as well get busy, right? But the opposite has happened. I’m dating a RN who works in the new baby / NICU ward, and their “business” is way, way down. It’s slow enough that the hospital reassigned her to mass-vaccination duty at one of their clinics (they’re handling 1200 people a day, if you can believe it).

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @FreedMike – agreed. We would have started to see birth rates climb already if one were to believe conspiracy/nut-job theorists.

        • 0 avatar

          @Lou_BC – what is conspiracy theory about birth rate? There is population explosion is expected in Africa in this century. The reason is improving mortality rate especially among kids. The same thing that happened in Mexico in 20th century. Europeans have a big problem in their hands because we are talking about migration of billions of people.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Inside looking out
            “we are talking about migration of billions of people.”

            That’s your whole point from earlier, the racist belief that we have to let them die so they don’t cause *us* problems. Your views make me sick to my stomach.

            High birth rates are a survival response. Africa hasn’t been hit hard by SARS-COV-2 because the average life span is in the 40’s. There is minimal obesity or other typical “diseases of affluence”.
            When you improve health and survival, birth rates drop.

            If you are terrified of massive migration, you should support climate change mitigation. That will cause a greater population shift that lower human death rates.

          • 0 avatar

            Do you prefer to destroy planet? People are not supposed to procreate at such a high rate. There are simply hard limits to how much population Earth can support. Europeans are already fading away so I do not see Europeans as a problem.

        • 0 avatar
          RHD

          It’s not going up because the conspiracy/nut-job theorists can’t get l**d.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I know when we have had particularly strong winter storms either wind or snow/ice that knocks power out to a large portion of homes in the area or the snow keeps people home for a day or two, there is a spike in births 9 months later.

        I guess financial uncertainty, and possibly concerns about exposure of going to a doctor’s office/hospital kept people from procreating.

        The other thing I expected was an increase in the divorce rate as people were forced to be together 24/7.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Minus the mask, I continue to be shocked that people have been living their lives without sanitizing stuff and washing their hands. It is like germs didn’t exist prior to all this in many people’s worlds. Yes, it would be a solid idea moving forward for people to not be Filthy McNasties.

      • 0 avatar
        teddyc73

        @ Art Vandelay I haven’t been doing any of those things and I’ve been fine. I don’t wear a mask either. I guess I’ll continue to be a “Filthy McNasty”.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “the distance between the earth and the moon is only 238,856 miles”

    If only it were that simple:
    https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEhelp/moonorbit.html

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    Good! We need to stop living in fear and go about a normal daily lives. And for crying out loud people, throw away the dang masks!

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      “Good! We need to stop living in fear and go about a normal daily lives”

      IDK, I guess I wasn’t exactly living my life in fear when I was going into what was probably one of the largest covid19 treatment sites in the country to access needed scientific equipment in order to keep a scientific experiment going. Yeah, I wore a mask, but for the same reason I avoid ice fishing in late March after a string of 50 to 60 degree days or make meals out of roadkill. There’s living your life in fear at one end of the spectrum, but stupidity at the other.

    • 0 avatar
      JD-Shifty

      it’s hard to believe teddyc73 is an actual grown up and not an act.

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    Wow, some of these comments are just astounding to me. It’s amazing the garbage some of believe and the complete insanity you’re spewing (climate change as one example)

  • avatar
    RHD

    I don’t know about the proles, but normal people have had their vaccinations already, or are about to have them. You’re about 95% immune at that point.

    The ones dying in the future will be the anti-vaxxer loons who like to think it’s all an extremely elaborate hoax.

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