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Americans drive 3.1 trillion miles in 2015, a new record

Americans drive 3.1 trillion miles in 2015, a new record
Traffic swells on the 101 Freeway near White Oak in the San Fernando Valley as the sun comes up in March 2015. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Driving in the U.S. set a new record last year: 3.1 trillion miles, according to the government.

The previous record was 3 trillion miles set in 2007, before the Great Recession led to a sharp reduction in driving. The numbers come from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration.

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For a sense of scale, 3.1 trillion miles is roughly the same distance as 337 round trips from Earth to Pluto.

Miles driven in California jumped an unadjusted 11.3% in December from the same month a year earlier, leading the nation. It was followed by Hawaii, which had a 7.2% increase, and Arkansas, where miles driven rose 6.2%.

The National Safety Council recently estimated the number of traffic deaths in the United States climbed 8% in 2015 compared with 2014, the largest year-to-year percentage increase in half a century.

The Transportation Department predicted in a report last year that the expected population growth of 70 million people by 2045 will lead to increased gridlock in many parts of the country. Commercial truck shipments are projected to increase 43%.

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