American Driving Survey, 2020–2021
This Research Brief presents updated statistics on the amount of driving done by the American public in 2020 & 2021 based on data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s annual American Driving Survey.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on many aspects of American life, including but not limited to travel. A combination of changes in employment, remote work, stay-at-home orders, and people voluntarily foregoing travel due to health concerns all resulted in a large decrease in the amount that Americans drove in 2020 relative to prior years. While the pandemic continued throughout 2021, many of the measures taken in 2020 to combat it were relaxed and travel began to approach pre-pandemic levels. This Research Brief provides highlights from the AAA Foundation’s 2020 & 2021 American Driving Survey, which quantifies the daily driving of the American public.
- 8% of U.S. residents ages 16 years and older drove at least occasionally in 2021, unchanged from 2020.
- Drivers reported making an average of 2.57 driving trips, spending 61.3 minutes behind the wheel, and driving 32.7 miles each day in 2021, all of which represented substantial increases relative to 2020.
- Projecting these results to all drivers nationwide, 245 million drivers made a total of 229 billion driving trips, spent 91 billion hours driving, and drove 2.92 trillion miles in 2021, all of which represented increases relative to 2020.
- There were some significant shifts in the mix of drivers on the road during the COVID-19 pandemic relative to previous years. For example:
- Young adults ages 25-34 reported driving significantly more in 2021 than adults aged 35-49 or 50-64 did, whereas in past years these groups drove similar amounts.
- High school graduates reported driving about the same amount as college graduates in 2020 and much more than college graduates in 2021, whereas prior to the pandemic, college graduates typically drove much more than high school graduates did.
Members of a pre-recruited research panel were invited to participate in an online or telephone interview in which they were asked to report basic information about all of the driving and other travel that they did on the day before the interview. Approximately 5,100 participants were interviewed each year, with interviews spread approximately evenly over all days of the year. The survey was administered in English and in Spanish, primarily online but also by telephone to increase the survey’s coverage of the population. Estimates of daily driving were obtained by computing the mean numbers of trips, minutes, and miles of driving reported by respondents. Estimates of total trips, minutes, and miles driven by all drivers nationwide each year were obtained by multiplying daily driver-level means by 365 to produce annualized statistics and then multiplying by the total number of drivers in the United States. Statistics reported in this Research Brief are based on interviews performed between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021. Data were weighted to account for each respondent’s probability of having been invited to participate in the survey and to align the demographic characteristics of the respondents with those of the U.S. population.