Low Gas Prices Prompt U.S. Motorists to Log Record Miles

Gas Prices Rise 13 Cents In Two Weeks As Oil Rebounds
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

By Jarrett Renshaw and Edward McAllister

NEW YORK -- U.S. motorists made the most of low gasoline prices by driving record miles in the first two months of the year, aided by a national glut in oil supplies, according to new government data released Thursday.

Drivers logged 221.2 billion miles on U.S. roads in February, a 2.8 percent increase over last year and the most in the month since 2008, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

%VIRTUAL-pullquote-We had bad weather in December, January and February, and we still had growth.%It was the 12th consecutive month of year-on-year growth. Coupled with January's miles, the first two months of the year saw more driving than the same period of any other year since 1990, when records began.

"We had bad weather in December, January and February, and we still had growth," said Robert Sinclair, spokesman for AAA in New York. "We should continue to see that growth when the good weather hits and driving season begins."

Americans' driving habits are watched closely by oil traders, since U.S. gasoline demand accounts for about one-tenth of global oil demand. U.S. gasoline demand in January hit 8.7 million barrels per day, according to the Energy Information Administration. That was down from December's 9.3 million barrels per day but was the highest number for January since 2008.

U.S. gasoline prices have fallen with global oil prices and were around $2.30 a gallon in February, much cheaper than the previous year. U.S. gasoline prices were $2.49 a gallon on average Thursday, a discount of more than $1 a gallon from last year.