Saturday, June 27, 2020

Most Americans stay home, allowing people to speed on open roads, a driving update for Pearl during June 2020

I predicted when I would post this entry in Oil falls below $0.00 for the first time ever and my prediction came true.
I'm an example of people driving a lot less and reducing consumption. In January, I expected to write the next driving update in early April. It's now late April and I've driven so little since Michigan colleges and universities suspended in-person classes in March that I may not write that update until June.
It's not just June, but late June, and Pearl didn't pass 51,000 miles until yesterday, Friday, June 26, 151 days — almost five full months — since Pearl the Prius's odometer rolled over 50,000 miles on January 27, 2020. That translates to 6.62 miles per day, 201.99 miles per standard month, and 2423.84 miles per leap year or 2417.22 miles per standard year. I have never driven my primary vehicle so little. The next lowest I can find was for February 2012, 7.25 miles per day, 236.4 miles per standard month, and 2828.75 per standard year, and that was because I was not driving my old car Yuki for more than three weeks, had a long holiday break during which I didn't drive much and a mild winter that allowed me to walk more in a walkable neighborhood. Of course, that's all due to the pandemic and resulting recession keeping people at home.

Calculated Risk quoted the U.S. Department of Transportation about the effect these conditions had on driving in April.
Travel on all roads and streets changed by -39.8% (-112.0 billion vehicle miles) for April 2020 as compared with April 2019. Travel for the month is estimated to be 169.6 billion vehicle miles.

The seasonally adjusted vehicle miles traveled for April 2020 is 160.9 billion miles, a -41.2% (-112.9 billion vehicle miles) decline from April 2019. It also represents -27.2% decline (-60 billion vehicle miles) compared with March 2020.
Cumulative Travel for 2020 changed by -14.8% (
-152.3 billion vehicle miles). The cumulative estimate for the year is 875.9 billion vehicle miles of travel.
Bill McBride made two graphs with the data. Here's the second graph, which shows the year-over-year change in vehicle miles driven.

That's quite the drop in driving! In contrast, the usual graph I use, which depicts the rolling 12 month total vehicle miles driven, does not make the drop look as dramatic.

Bill McBride of Calculated Risk wrote "This will be an interesting measure to watch when the economy eventually starts to recover." For a foretaste of what that might look like, here's the year-over-year change in gasoline consumption from the most recent Six High Frequency Indicators for a Recovery.

The year-over-year miles driven should look a lot like this, but the rolling 12 month total vehicle miles driven will continue to go down for at least the next year.

While most Americans are driving much less, a few of us are driving a lot faster. Inside Edition covered that last month in Many Drivers Caught Speeding During Pandemic.

With millions of people following stay-at-home orders, those with a need for speed can’t seem to resist the allure of empty highways. Rush hour is non-existent, and lots of “crazy COVID drivers” are putting the pedal to the metal and ignoring the speed limit during the pandemic. Inside Edition sent a team of investigative reporters to New York City and Long Island where they clocked people going as much as 50 miles an hour over the speed limit, along with plenty of reckless driving.
All of that was around NYC. NBC's Today Show captured the same behavior in California in Drivers Hitting Triple-Digit Speeds On Open Roads During Coronavirus Pandemic.

With many people staying home during the coronavirus pandemic, once-crowded highways are now relatively empty, prompting more drivers to speed. According to the California Highway Patrol, officers have seen an 87% increase in citations for speeding in excess of 100 miles per hour. NBC’s Erin McLaughlin reports for Weekend TODAY.
While the roads have been open, if not empty, here in Metro Detroit, I haven't been tempted to drive that fast, nor have I seen people driving 90+ MPH. Then again, I stayed pretty much at home during the latter half of March and all of April, so I avoided the freeways when they at their emptiest. Even so, there is little in the way of traffic congestion now. Rush hour? What's that?

Follow over the jump for more driving math.

As I wrote above the jump, I drove Pearl an average of 6.62 miles per day, 201.99 miles per standard month, and 2423.84 miles per leap year or 2417.22 miles per standard year. That's a lot less than the 10.99 miles per day, 335.16 miles per standard month, and 4010.99 miles per year I drove her between Monday, October 28, 2019 and January 27, 2020. I didn't think I would drive so little last January. In fact, I wrote "I'm sure I'll drive more between now and early April, when I expect to post my next driving update, although I will probably still be driving less than 6,000 miles per year. I would be pleased if that ends up being the case." Hah, I'm both wrong and pleased, although I wish it weren't for the reason it happened.

The last measure I'll look at is the actual miles driven over the past year. For that, I'm going back to July 13, 2019, when Pearl passed 47,000 miles. That's 4,000 miles in 350 days for an average of 11.43 miles per day, 348.57 miles per standard month, and 4,182.86 miles per leap year or 4171.43 miles per standard year. That's much less than the averages of 14.89 miles per day, 454.09 miles per standard month, and 5434.24 miles per year during the previous report, and even less than the 16.62 miles per day, 506.93 miles per standard month, and 6066.48 miles per year I averaged a year ago. On the one hand, I'm sure I'll be driving more during the next report in September or October when Pearl passes 52,000 miles. On the other, I'm sure my year-over-year driving will continue to fall.

I conclude by noting that I would normally illustrate my entries with an image from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, but today I wanted something different, so I searched for "pirate cars" and found the photo of Cruz Ramirez from "Cars 3" above. Not a bad Halloween costume for an automobile. Maybe I'll name my next car after her. Stay tuned.


  1. Can't say I'm surprised. I used to need to put gas in my car twice a month (or once when unemployed). Now it's been three months since I last put gas in it and I've still got half a tank. Haven't seen much speeding, but I haven't been out of the city. With the condition our streets are in, I imagine 100 miles an hour would be pretty uncomfortable.

    1. I think I've filled up my car and my wife's car once each since Michigan's stay at home orders were issued, so same here. I have been driving more since the first week of May because my campus reopened for essential staff and I had to prep for my classes, but I'm still driving less than I would be normally because I am not running to the store every other day. My wife and I are having our groceries delivered or prepared for pickup once a week, something I should write about.

      I drove on the roads between Portland and the coast three years ago and didn't think they were that bad compared to the ones here. Maybe that's why I haven't seen many excessive speeders here in Metro Detroit — the roads.

  2. Hey Eddie! ... wow, interesting, I myself have not thought much about it, but was able to drive comfortably at about 90mph along LBJ Frwy here in Dallas, which is usually pretty full at times, due to the shutdown, which only lasted a few weeks, then once they opened back up, freewayz in Dallas filled up. But folks here in Dallas usually drive at over speed limits anywayz, when you can, of course ... large area, and you can't get around well driving at 55mph. I'm not one that drives over 100mph ... just rarely, if I'm in a car designed for it, and it's safe, like very late night/ wee morning hours, and not in the city ... in town I usually limit myself to about 90 tops, but usually do aroung 70 to 80 if/ when I can

    1. Hey, Ranch Chimp! Good to see you here again! Heh, I'm surprised Texas didn't get featured in the two videos I embedded in addition to New York and California.