Driver miles are flattening out

In what may seem like a "man bites dog" story, the grand total of annual vehicle-miles driven may have peaked a few years ago and continues to decline as more people get out of their cars and choose to take public transportation or even hoof it instead.

Total driving miles, which had been on the upswing since about prehistoric times and approaches about 3 trillion miles a year in the US, started to flatten out in 2005. Three years later showed signs of an actual drop-off, Twin Cities Sidewalks happily reports. While some may credit the stalling economy and rising gas prices for the decline, the number of total drivers continues to rise, implying that miles driven per capita is falling substantially and that "peak vehicle miles," as analysts refer to the concept, may have already happened. Better Cities adds that a third of 16- to 24-year-old Americans haven't gotten their first drivers licenses yet, implying that this trend may be long lasting, perhaps even permanent.

Earlier this year, the International Transport Forum at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said that growth in total vehicle miles traveled may have topped out in 2007 and has likely been declining ever since.