New American Driving Survey: Updated Methodology and Results from July 2019 to June 2020

The New American Driving Survey collects and examines national-level data on the driving habits and patterns of the American public, in response to the need for driving exposure information in quantifying traffic risks.

April 2021

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Authors

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

Abstract

Introduction

Fundamental to the research that the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA Foundation) performs is the ability to quantify traffic risks. Quantifying traffic risks requires two different types of data: (a) motor vehicle crashes and the number of people who are involved, injured, and killed in those crashes, and (b) driving risk exposure, such as how many miles people travel.

To address the need for driving exposure information in relation to driver, vehicle, and trip characteristics, the AAA Foundation initiated the American Driving Survey in May of 2013 and collected national-level data on the driving habits and patterns of the American public. After five years of data collection, the survey methodology was re-examined and new techniques for data collection were evaluated. As a result, the AAA Foundation launched the new, modernized survey, entitled the New American Driving Survey, in July 2019.

Key Findings

About 9-in-10 U.S. residents ages 16 or older drove at least occasionally and made an average of 2.5 driving trips daily during 2019–2020. These drivers spent approximately 59 minutes a day driving and drove nearly 30 miles daily on average. Also, their driving patterns varied by socio-demographic factors.

Methodology

The New American Driving Survey used NORC’s AmeriSpeak®, a large probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population, including all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey began on July 1, 2019, and data have been continuously collected on every day of the year since. This report uses data collected between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. The survey was conducted in English and Spanish via web (using computers, tablets, or smartphones) and by phone with a sample aged 16 years and older. Respondents were asked a series of questions regarding all of their travel over a 24-hour (one day) period beginning the day before the survey. The questions asked when each trip was taken (time), where they began and ended the trip, why they made the trip (trip purpose), and how they traveled (transportation mode). If respondents drove themselves, they were also asked to report the distance and duration of the trip and the vehicle type they drove. These questions were repeated for every trip they reported from 3 AM on the previous day to 2:59 AM on the survey day.

Results

The following summarizes analysis results from data collected between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020.

  • The number of drivers ages 16 or older in the United States was estimated at 246.3 million between 2019 and 2020, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
    • It was estimated that they made nearly 225 billion trips, spent about 89 billion hours driving, and drove almost 3 trillion miles.
  • Driving patterns varied by socio-demographic factors:
    • Middle-aged drivers made more trips, spent more time driving, and drove more miles than teens or older drivers.
    • Men drove more often, spent more time driving, and drove more miles than women.
    • The average daily number of trips, minutes, and miles were higher for married people than for the widowed.
    • Drivers who lived in non-metropolitan areas made more trips, spent more time, and drove more miles than those who lived in metropolitan areas.

It is noteworthy that the results included in this report should not be compared with those reported in the previous publications, as the survey methodologies in previous years were significantly different from those reported herein. Additionally, the global pandemic starting in early 2020 clearly had a major impact on driving patterns, thus the study period from July 2019 through June 2020 is fundamentally unlike the same period in any prior year with respect to travel.

 

Suggested Citation

Authors

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety