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By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, Sept 23 (Reuters) – U.S. motorists drove 11.5% more miles in July as driving nearly matched pre-COVID levels and more Americans returned to offices and took leisure trips.
The Federal Highway Administration said Thursday motorists drove 290.1 billion miles in July, up 30 billion miles over June 2020 as overall travel was nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. In July 2019, U.S. motorists logged 292.9 billion miles.
Rural driving in June and July surpassed pre-COVID levels, while urban driving has risen but has not yet fully recovered. In July, U.S. motorists drove 95.6 billion miles on rural roads and 194.5 billion miles on urban roads and streets. The biggest increase was in the West in July, where travel was up 13.1%.
For all of 2020, U.S. road travel fell 13.2% to 2.83 trillion miles, the lowest yearly total since 2001. The current 12-month moving average is 3.03 trillion miles.
U.S. gasoline consumption is expected to average 8.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2021, up from 8 million bpd in 2020, the Energy Information Administration has said.
Still, the EIA added U.S. gasoline consumption will remain below 2019 levels through 2022 due to the proliferation of people working from home.
Traffic deaths rose 7.2% in 2020 — hitting the highest yearly total since 2007 — despite the decline in driving due to impaired drivers, speeding, a failure to wear seats beats and other unsafe behavior.
Earlier this month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it estimated 8,730 people died in car crashes in the first three months of 2021, up 10.5% over the same period in 2020, despite a 2.1% drop in the number of miles driven.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)