DAVIS (CBS13) – Efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus have led to an estimated 60 percent less driving in the U.S. since the shelter-at-home order began. As a result, vast amounts of greenhouse gases have been cut but so have millions of dollars in gas-tax revenues.
A report issued Friday from the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis estimated that U.S. drivers went from traveling 103 billion miles in early March to 29 billion miles during the second week of April. The report used data from Streetlight Data, a company that tracks transportation behavior, and estimates that each state reduced its vehicle miles traveled by at least 60 percent.
The report found a correlation between COVID-19 cases in a state and its traffic reductions. The higher the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths reported in a state, the fewer miles were driven.
In California, vehicle miles driven dropped more than 75 percent, causing the state’s fuel-tax revenue under Senate Bill 1 to plummet from an estimated $61 million in early March to $15 million for the second week of April. The Center estimates that for an eight-week, stay-at-home order, the loss to the state is an estimated $370 million.
“Although there are economic downsides to our new normal of reduced driving, there are silver, and even ‘gold and green’ linings that we can be thankful for, including less greenhouse gases, less money spent on gas, and fewer injuries and deaths from crashes,” said Road Ecology Center director and project lead author Fraser Shilling.
The drop in fuel use was accompanied by a significant drop in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. During the reporting period, the authors estimated a 71 percent nationwide decline in carbon dioxide equivalents from local road travel.