- Politics and Social Issues
Reducing Your Consumption: The Effects of Driving One Less Mile Per Day
Americans love their cars. The average US household has 2.28 vehicles parked in its driveway. By the end of 2009, there were over 246,000,000 registered vehicles in the United States with nearly 140,000,000 of them passenger vehicles (2-axles, non-commercial). Each vehicle will be driven approximately 12,000 miles annually for a total mileage of about 1,680,000,000,000 miles for all passenger vehicles each year. Yes, that's 1.68 trillion miles or about 9,036 trips to the sun and back annually! And this figure doesn't even include semi-trucks, busses, or other commercial vehicles! So for each man woman and child, that’s about 5,441.4 miles annually, or about 14.9 miles per day. So what exactly would happen if each person in America traveled an average of just 1 less mile per day in their car?
Vehicle Maintenance Savings
The annual maintenance and repair bill for an average car in America is $659.76 dollars (based on a 2009 analysis of vehicle usage statistics). This computes to about 5.5 cents for every mile driven. If each person in America reduced their daily mileage by just 1 mile, it would save them roughly $20 dollars per year. This means that Americans would reduce their spending by about $6,195,812,832.92 dollars annually. This is enough money to pay for heart valve surgeries for 43,900 people!
If each person in the United States reduced their daily mileage total by just 1 mile, it would reduce the number of annual miles traveled to just 1,567,307,878,995 miles (a reduction of 112.7 billion miles). Since the average fuel economy for all 140,000,000 passenger vehicles currently being driven is around 20.6 miles-per-gallon (2009 calculation), we could save 5,470,491,311 gallons of fuel (or about 130,249,793 barrels of petroleum) annually. This would result in an annual savings of about $20,235,347,359.39 dollars in fuel costs for all Americans (using the current 2011 US average retail price of $3.70 per gallon). That's enough money for each person in America to have an extra $65.54 in their pocket each year.
Carbon Emissions Savings
Since the annual mileage driven would be reduced by 112.7 billion miles, emissions of carbon dioxide gas would also be reduced. Since 1 gallon of gasoline produces roughly 19.4 pounds of CO2 gas, we could prevent 53,063,764.7 tons of it from entering Earth's atmosphere each year. That's equivalent to removing 17 average sized coal power plants from our power grid. This was calculated based on the fact that the average coal power plant in America produces around 3 million tons of CO2 each year.
There are other residual benefits to reducing your driving as well. Statistically speaking, we could say that there would be 1,094 less fatal car accidents (a 3.6% reduction). This was calculated based on the fact that for every 103,000,000 miles driven, there is one fatality on our roads. Americans would also spend 3,756,404,045.6 less hours per year sitting behind the wheel. That's a reduction of 12.16 hours per person per year sitting in a car. During that time a person could perform 51,100 jumping jacks jumping at a rate of 70 jacks per minute. A 200 lb male would burn about 9,709 calories in one year by doing this. This is equivalent to preventing yourself from gaining 2.77 pounds of excess body fat.
If every person in America drove just 1 mile less per day in their vehicles, the results would be substantial and amazing. I realize that I have made some assumptions in this analysis, however, I am still confident in its results. Vehicular traffic has one of the largest health and environmental impacts of anything else that we as humans have done. Hopefully after reading this, you will have a new perspective on driving.
References and Resources
Auto Blog. Report: Number of Cars in the U.S. Dropped by Four Million in 2009 - Is America's Love Affair Ending? January 4th, 2010. <http://www.autoblog.com/2010/01/04/report-number-of-cars-in-the-u-s-dropped-by-four-million-in-20/>
Auto Spies. Study Finds Americans Own 2.28 Vehicles Per Household. February 12, 2008. <http://www.autospies.com/news/Study-Finds-Americans-Own-2-28-Vehicles-Per-Household-26437/>
Bureau of Transportation Statistics: Research and Innovative Technology Administration. Table 1-11: Number of U.S. Aircraft, Vehicles, Vessels, and Other Conveyances. May 3, 2010 <http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_01_11.html>
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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Fatal Crashes and Crash Rates by Month. 2011. <http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Crashes/CrashesTime.aspx>
U.S. Census Bureau. U.S. Census Bureau Announces 2010 Census Population Counts -- Apportionment Counts Delivered to President. December 21, 2010. <http://2010.census.gov/news/releases/operations/cb10-cn93.html>
U.S. Department of Transportation: Federal Highway Administration. Policy Statistics 2009: Licensed Drivers, Vehicle Registrations, and Resident Population. April 11, 2011. <http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2009/dv1c.cfm>
U.S. Energy Information Administration. Transportation Chapter 3: Vehicle-Miles Traveled. February 1, 2002. <http://www.eia.gov/emeu/rtecs/chapter3.html>
U.S. Energy Information Administration. U.S. Retail Gasoline Prices. August 8, 2011. <http://www.eia.gov/oil_gas/petroleum/data_publications/wrgp/mogas_home_page.html>
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Air Emissions. December 28, 2007. <http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-and-you/affect/air-emissions.html>
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Emissions Facts: Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle. April 12, 2011. <http://www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/documents/420f11041.pdf>
Shea, Lisa. Car Average MPG Ratings. 2005 <http://www.lisashea.com/motorcycle/carmileage.html>
Victoria Transport Policy Institute. The Cost of Driving and The Savings from Reduced Vehicle Use. May 9, 2010. <http://www.vtpi.org/tdm/tdm82.htm>