There’s a growing body of evidence that a centerpiece of daily American life — driving a vehicle somewhere — is steadily resurgent.
For the week of March 2 — prior to the implementation of lockdown orders across the U.S. — 86% were traveling at least a mile from home each day. That figure declined for six straight weeks, bottoming out at 62% during the week of April 13. It climbed back to 66% the week of April 20 and reached 69% (a six-week high) the week of April 20, the latest week for which data is available.
A resurgence in Americans hitting the road is important to broadcasters since the car is where most radio listening takes place.
According to a Geopath spokesperson cited by MediaPost, the 80%-plus range appears to be relatively normal, suggesting that almost one-fifth of Americans typically don’t travel more than a mile from home during normal times.
Meanwhile, a separate, more recent analysis also finds Americans were getting back on the road in the past week more than at any time since the middle of March — albeit at levels considerably lower than before the widespread issuance of stay-at-home orders.
An Associated Press analysis of information from analytics software company StreetLight Data finds driving activity was 60% higher during the seven-day period ending May 8 compared with the lowest point reached since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
That figure, however, is still down from 49% in January — and substantially lower than typical spring driving activity levels.
Tim Harlow, who reports on traffic for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, tells The AP he’s noticing more traffic during what would typically be rush hour. “The data is showing that we are starting to move around a little bit more,” he says. “I think some people are going back to work. I think other people are just kind of getting stir crazy… We’re Americans. We don’t like to stay home.”
More than 30 states issued stay-at-home orders in March, and driving activity unsurprisingly plunged as a result. According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the number of vehicle miles traveled during the month fell 18.6% — or the rough equivalent of 50.6 billion vehicular miles — compared with a year ago. April data isn’t yet available.