- The Washington Times - Friday, August 29, 2003

For the first time, the typical American family has more vehicles in the garage than licensed drivers in the house, according to the Transportation Department’s latest national survey.

There are 107 million U.S. households, each with an average of 1.9 cars, trucks or sport utility vehicles and 1.8 drivers, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported. That equals 204 million vehicles and 191 million drivers.

The last time the survey was conducted, in 1995, those numbers were equal.

“This is the final realization of the entire American ethos,” said Robert Lang, director of Virginia Tech’s Metropolitan Institute, which researches regional growth. “There’s a real love of the road.”

Alan Pisarski, author of “Commuting in America,” said the trend had been clear for a long time.

“We’ve added more cars than people for the last two decades,” Mr. Pisarski said, “and the average number of people per household has been declining.”

There are myriad reasons for the proliferation of vehicles: more families with two breadwinners driving separately to work, more teens with cars of their own, more families with recreational or weekend wheels, longer-lasting automobiles.

Cars once were sent to the scrap pile with 100,000 or fewer miles on their odometers. Now it’s common to drive them for 200,000 miles or more.

“There is an extraordinary availability of low-cost automobiles.” Mr. Pisarski said. “People are buying 10-year-old cars.”

Debbie Dickens lives and works in Arlington. She and her husband own three vehicles: a car she drives to work, a truck for his exterminating business and a family pickup.

“He doesn’t want to drive the work truck on weekends,” she said.

The Dickenses are typical, Mr. Pisarski said: Many Americans now use vehicles for specialized purposes. For example, he said, some people buy high-mileage cars for commutes and keep a gas-guzzling SUV for weekends and vacations.

Americans love cars so much they’ve remade their communities because of them, Mr. Lang said. Suburban subdivisions have replaced downtown apartment buildings in many areas. The result is more daily trips to buy groceries or go to the mall.

The average person in the United States takes four trips per day. Nearly half — 45 percent — are for shopping or errands.

“We’re taking many short trips we used to make on bike or on foot,” said James Corless, spokesman for the Surface Transportation Policy Project, a group that advocates balanced transportation.

The Transportation Department survey of 60,000 people, conducted in 2001 and 2002, found 91 percent of people who commute use their own cars or trucks.

Of all personal vehicles, 57 percent are cars or station wagons, 21 percent vans or sport utility vehicles and 19 percent light trucks.

The survey also found 8 percent of U.S. households don’t have cars.

With a fear of terrorism, many people are staying closer to home. And that means car rides rather than plane trips.

In 2000, 83 percent of all leisure trips were taken by car, according to the Falls Church travel research firm D.K. Shifflet & Associates. In 2002, that number rose to 84.9 percent.

“A car seems like a comfy, happy place,” Mr. Lang said. “When you hit the velvety highway out there, that’s when it all make sense.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide