New data from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that Americans are driving less.
"The data shows that Americans are not just driving less, but they're driving a lot less."
Doug Hecox, spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration , says since last November until this past July, Americans have driven 62.6-billion miles less than they did over the same period a year earlier.
Wisconsin's decline in travel is among the highest.
"What we're noticing, particularly in Wisconsin's case, is that the decline in driving just in July of '08 against where it was in July of '07 was 5.5%. That makes it among the greatest amount of decline of any state across the country."
Hecox says, despite June, July and August being big vacation months, the data shows many Wisconsinites have spent this summer home. In July of '07, total travel was about 1.8 billion miles, but this past July it was about 1.7 billion.
"So we're looking at a drop of roughly 100-million miles just in that one month alone."
Many people attribute the decline in travel to high gas prices, but Hecox doubts that's the case.
"We think that it may be a factor; we don't know that it's the sole cause. Maybe a broader more blurry economic picture with a tough housing market, with high food prices, certainly with high gas prices … all of these are combining to tighten the average household pocketbook."
Hecox speculates that Wisconsinites might be working more, giving them less time to travel.
Their data doesn't show why — or why not — it shows where . They had assumed that the travel decline would be in locations where there were high concentrations of alternative transit available, but that's not the case. Hecox says the greatest area of decline is on interstates in rural areas.
"It's the areas where you might see traditional vacation travel – the family road trip, the long interstate trip – those seem to be down.
The August numbers won't be available for a couple of weeks, but Hecox says the downward trend is undeniable.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) collects vehicle-miles-traveled data for all motor vehicles through more than 4,000 automatic traffic recorders mounted in roads in all sizes across the US and operated round-the-clock by state highway agencies.