Trucks at Work

Divining the daily driving habits of motorists

Truck drivers and their fleets alike must always wonder about the four-wheelers they deal with on America’s crowded roadways every day, such as: How many miles do they drive every day? Do four-wheelers drive more during the week or on the weekend? And can vehicle type – pickup, SUV, midsize sedan – tell me something about the person behind the wheel?

That’s where an ongoing survey being conducted the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the Urban Institute comes into play; a 47-page study that the trucking community might want to peruse to gain insight into the driving habits of U.S. general public.

Here are some initial findings to chew over:

  • Motorists age 16 years and older drive, on average, 29.2 miles per day; roughly translating into 10,658 miles per year.
  • Women take more driving trips, but men spend 25% more time behind the wheel and drive 35% more miles than women.
  • Both teenagers and seniors over the age of 75 drive less than any other age group; motorists 30 to 49 years in age old drive the most; an average 13,140 miles annually, more than any other age group.
  • The average distance and time spent driving increase in relation to higher levels of education. For example: A driver with a grade school or some high school education drove an average of 19.9 miles and 32 minutes daily, while a college graduate drove an average of 37.2 miles and 58 minutes.
  • Drivers who reported living "in the country" or "a small town" drive greater distances (12,264 miles annually) and spend a greater amount of time driving than people who described living in a "medium sized town" or city (9,709 miles annually).
  • Motorists in the South drive the most – 11,826 miles annually – while those in the Northeast drive the least; 8,468 miles annually.
  • On average, Americans drive fewer miles on the weekend than on weekdays.
  • Americans drive, on average, the least during winter months (January through March) at 25.7 miles daily; they drive the most during the summer months (July through September) at 30.6 miles daily.

Now, those data points above are based on an initial nationwide sample of 3,319 drivers who provided detailed information about all their driving trips taken the day before their interviews with researchers; interviews that took place between May 21, 2013 and May 31, 2014.

Yet both AAA and the Urban Institute stressed that “data collection is ongoing,” so more factoids of note will no doubt be uncovered in the years ahead.

Here are some more interesting tidbits from this survey:

  • The average number of vehicles per household (2.1) was greater than the average number of drivers per household (1.8).
  • Overall, 58% of households had the same number of vehicles as drivers, 28% had more vehicles than drivers, and 14% had fewer vehicles than drivers.
  • Households in rural areas have even more vehicles relative to the number of drivers than do urban households.
  • The average number of vehicles per household was lowest in the Northeast region but similar across the other three regions.
  • Approximately half of all miles driven were driven in cars, with another 40% in SUVs or pickup trucks.
  • Men were much more likely than women to report driving a pickup truck; otherwise there are no significant gender differences in the types of vehicle driven. 
  • Pickup trucks were driven more in the South, and in rural areas, and by drivers who reported lower levels of education. Conversely, SUVs were more popular among drivers with higher educational levels.

Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, noted in a statement that he hopes this survey does two things: fill in a significant gap in federal government data collection efforts and help better illuminate the “why and how” of vehicle crashes.

"This is the first ongoing study that provides a look at when and how much Americans are driving," Kissinger (seen at right)  explained in a statement. "Existing federal data with this level of detail was last released in 2009, eight years after the previous release …  substantially limiting the extent to which we can use existing data to draw conclusions about Americans' current driving habits."

On top that, this new data – when combined with available crash data – should help a variety of groups to conduct in his words “unique and timely” studies on crash rates for the first time.

“This will allow us to identify specific problems and evaluate various safety countermeasures to a degree never before possible,” Kissinger added.

Let’s hope that is the case.

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