BOISE – “Rush hour” usually brings to mind thoughts of traffic congestion, but according to new research by AAA, it could also represent the average time drivers spend behind the wheel.

In AAA’s new American Driving Survey, participants reported spending an hour driving each day, covering an average distance of 30 miles.  Nearly 90 percent of Americans ages 16 or older drove at least occasionally, completing an average of two or three driving trips per day.  When applied to data from the Census Bureau, AAA estimates that U.S. drivers made nearly 225 billion trips, spent about 89 billion hours driving, and drove a staggering 3 trillion miles during the study period.

Data for the survey was collected between July 2019 and June 2020, reflecting several months of relatively normal business and recreational travel as well as the slowdown caused by stay-home orders during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Based on our research, middle-aged drivers spent more time on the road than teens or older drivers, and men drove more often and logged more miles than women.  Married people also drove more than the widowed,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde.  “It wasn’t surprising to learn that drivers in rural areas spent more time in their vehicles and covered more ground than drivers in urban settings.  Of course, with our geography and metropolitan areas, we have a pretty good mix of both here in Idaho.”

While circumstances associated with the pandemic and a new research methodology prevent this year’s survey from being compared with previous research, AAA says that studying driving patterns is a critical part of transportation planning, both for infrastructure investment and to predict and mitigate the number and severity of crashes.

AAA encourages motorists to get plenty of rest before long drives, and to take breaks when they get tired.  But there’s more that drivers can do.

“We only have so many hours in the day, and it can be really tempting to engage in non-essential activities like texting, social media, and emailing while we drive,” Conde said.  “Please practice good self-discipline and ditch the distractions – it really does make the roads safer for everyone.”