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Americans Drive More Than Pre-Covid Despite Record Gas Prices

Americans are driving more this year than in the same period in 2019, the last ‘normal’ year before COVID, despite the fact that U.S. gasoline prices have been soaring and hitting records every day in the past week, data from the Federal Highway Administration show.

Travel on all roads and streets rose to 277.4 billion vehicle miles, up by 2.9% in March 2022 compared with March 2021, according to the latest data. The Travel in Vehicle Miles in March was higher not only compared to 2021 and 2020, but also to 2019, meaning that Americans are driving more than before the pandemic, the data showed.

Year to date in March, cumulative travel for 2022 rose by 5.6% to 753.7 billion vehicle miles of travel, and this is also slightly higher than the 753.1 billion vehicle miles in the first quarter of 2019. The past 12 months of travel data also shows higher mileage than the 12-month period that ended in March 2019.

U.S. drivers are back on the roads and streets despite the fact that it was in March this year when gasoline prices started soaring after crude prices hit $100 per barrel following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

These days, gasoline prices are beating all-time high records every day. On Friday, May 20, the average cost nationwide for a gallon of regular gasoline was $4.593—an all-time high and up from $4.589 on May 19, and up from $3.043 on this day last year, per AAA data.

Still, U.S. gasoline demand is not going down despite record-high gasoline prices, and signs point to further rising demand as the summer driving season begins with the Memorial Day weekend, despite what will be the most expensive holiday weekend at the pump ever.

GasBuddy released its annual summer travel survey on Thursday, suggesting that the percentage of Americans planning on road trips this summer has increased over last year, indicating that crude oil demand destruction—at least from the transportation sector—isn’t on the horizon even at today’s high gasoline prices.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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