Highway stars: Survey shows Americans spent 71 billion hours on the open roads in a year

WASHINGTON — Whether it’s in a low rider, a little red Corvette or a brand-new Cadillac, a new survey shows that Americans are increasingly in love with their cars. Drivers are spending a staggering amount of time out on those long and winding roads, and a recently released survey shows that time is increasing from previous years.

This year’s American Driving Survey, conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, found that Americans are spending roughly 8 percent more time in their cars on average than they were five years ago. The average distance driven per person in a given year is high enough to account for two round-trips from D.C. to San Francisco.

All told, Americans are truly going the distance: 2.6 trillion miles of American roadways get driven on each year for an average 11,498 miles per person. To put that number in perspective, the distance from the Earth to the sun — called an Astronomical Unit and commonly used to measure distance in space — is approximately 92.96 million miles. Collectively, Americans travel the distance to the sun and back over 13 times in a given year.

The survey also found that people who are married or live with a partner spend at least 12 percent more time on the road than those who are not.

Drivers in Western states spent the most time on the road again with an average 58.9 minutes per day. Northeasterners hit Thunder Road for an average 51.1 minutes a day, while southerners spent an average 49.9 minutes per day on the crossroads. Midwesterners may need to revisit Highway 61, because they’re bringing up the rear with an average 44.5 minutes per day on the road. In fact, the number of Midwesterners who reported driving has dropped 3 percent in the last few years, while the other groups have either increased or stayed the same from previous years.

The survey also shows that Americans over the age of 75 are spending an increasing amount of time on the roads, putting in an average 34.8 minutes per day, an increase of 23 percent from previous years.

So baby you can drive my car, just be sure to fill up the tank after the first trillion miles or so.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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