New estimates released by the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) show that Americans drove 987.8 billion miles during the first four months of 2015, topping the previous record – 965.5 billion – set in April 2007.
The new data, published in FHWA's latest " Traffic Volume Trends "report, a monthly estimate of U.S. road travel, show that Americans drove 267.9 billion vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) in April – the most ever driven in April and the highest mileage for the first quarter of any year – underscoring the need for greater investment in transportation infrastructure.
The April estimates show that the nation's driving has increased steadily for 14 consecutive months.
The April 2015 report also includes seasonally-adjusted data, which enable VMT comparisons with March and any other month in any year, from the USDOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Analysis of seasonally-adjusted VMT is an alternative to analysis of unadjusted VMT, which traditionally uses comparisons of a month to the same month in previous years to determine trends.
The seasonally-adjusted vehicle miles traveled for April 2015 were 262.4 billion miles, a 3.7 percent increase – or 9.5 billion more VMT – compared to the previous April and a 1.1 percent increase – or 2.9 billion more VMT – compared with March 2015. The estimates include passenger vehicle, bus and truck travel.
At 60.9 billion unadjusted VMT, traffic in the West – 13 states including Alaska and Hawaii – was the nation's most-traveled region for the second consecutive month, and the 19th month in a row of VMT growth. The Northeast, a region of nine states stretching from Maine to New Jersey, showed the smallest growth – rising only 2.4 percent, or 37 billion VMT, compared to the same month a year earlier.
At 14.8 percent, Indiana led the nation with the largest unadjusted single-state traffic percent increase compared to the same month a year earlier, followed by Hawaii at 8.1 percent and North Dakota at 7.4 percent.
Roads in Washington, D.C. saw 1 million unadjusted VMT fewer in April 2015 than the previous April, a decline of .3 percent – the nation's only decline that month, according to the FHWA report.
The USDOT says that the new figures confirm the trends identified in its "Beyond Traffic" report, issued earlier this year, which projects a 43 percent increase in commercial truck shipments and population growth of 70 million by 2045. The report examines the trends and choices facing America's transportation infrastructure over the next three decades, including a rapidly growing population, increasing freight volume, demographic shifts in rural and urban areas, and a transportation system that is facing more frequent extreme weather events.
The USDOT says that increased gridlock nationwide can be expected unless system changes are made in the near-term.