Yeah, We Figured: Driving in America Dropped by Nearly Half During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed life for many people, including approaching car safety. For over a year, everyone in America wore masks, worked from home, and only traveled when necessary. It appears that while we’re slowly getting back to normal, many people are still choosing to stay at home.

The coronavirus pandemic caused a lot of cutbacks

An abandoned highway during a coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown in Duzce, Turkey
An abandoned highway during a coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown | Omer Urer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Anyone who chose to travel during the coronavirus pandemic noticed a drastic drop in traffic. Many people wanted to stay home, while others didn’t have a choice but to head out. Holidays didn’t happen for many families in 2020 as many remained in quarantine and could only see their family over apps such as Zoom and FaceTime. Even everyday travel came to a standstill. With businesses like movie theaters and restaurants closed down, many towns and cities suddenly found themselves looking like ghost towns. 

In an unusual twist, some people who did have the option to work from home decided to buy a camper and hit the road. In fact, it’s still difficult to buy a camper due to the insanely high demand, and some people are actually traveling to Canada to buy one.

However, not everyone had that option or chose to spend time at home with their loved ones. Just how much did the travel drop during the coronavirus pandemic? The AAA did a study, and here’s what it found.

Travel came to a standstill during the coronavirus pandemic

The AAA Newsroom stated, “While the dramatic change in traffic patterns was widely noted last year, new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s New American Driving Survey (2020) provides compelling month-by-month data that examines the types of trips and the characteristics of the people who altered their driving habits. According to the research, the average number of all daily personal car trips plunged 45% in April 2020 and 40% for trips by all modes of transportation combined.”

So, as it turns out, traffic slowed down more than we thought, though it wasn’t quite 50%. To break that down a little further, AAA reports that day trips were cut back from 3.7 in April 2019 to 2.2 in April 2020. 

It comes as no surprise to learn that the biggest group to cut back on travel was those over 65. They had the highest risk of catching the coronavirus. Plus, the fact that many were already retired made it an easy decision. However, the real surprise was that young people between the age of 16-24 cut back on travel. This is the age when people are learning to drive, taking their first road trip with friends, and backpacking across Europe. That they chose to remain close to home spoke volumes about the true impact of Covid-19 on travel.

Things aren’t back to normal yet

As eager as we all are for things to return to normal, that hasn’t quite happened yet. While the spread of coronavirus is slowing down thanks to people getting vaccinated, it’s still being spread. Hospitalizations seem to be down, at least for the moment, as many people are venturing out.

However, this doesn’t mean that things are pre-pandemic levels yet. Many people have gotten used to staying at home and have found that cooking for themselves isn’t nearly as bad as they thought. Still, others have found that streaming a Disney movie at home is much cheaper than going to the theater.

Things probably won’t stay like this forever. For those who hate rush hour traffic and all the scary driving habits of others, the thought of having to live through that again will doubtless bring a sense of dismay. For the rest of us who are eager to hit the road again, it’s welcome news.

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