Driving Habits Still Below Pre-Pandemic Levels

Oct 1, 2021

While the majority of Americans expected to be back to their pre-pandemic driving habits by the fall, we’re not there yet, according to new data from Hankook Tire’s Gauge Index. In April 2021, over half of Americans (54%) either already had or expected to return to their normal driving habits by the end of summer. However, Hankook’s latest survey found drivers are currently hitting the road even less than they were a year ago, despite that optimistic outlook.

Key Takeaways:

  • In September 2021, only 36% of Americans said they drive each day, compared to 48% in April 2021.
  • A majority of drivers have not driven daily since September 2020, when 61% reported doing so. Pre-pandemic data from October 2019 also shows 61%of Americans driving daily.
  • Further, in September 2021, 15% say they are not driving at all – a 400% increase year-over-year. In September 2020, only 3% of Americans said they were never driving.

Most Americans (79%) expect to drive less than 200 miles per week, and this is consistent across the country. However, certain demographics appear to be hitting the road more frequently than others. Hankook’s latest findings suggest three key shifts in daily life that are impacting driving habits:

  • Parents with younger children (under 18) are most likely to drive more than 200 miles per week (30%), and 22% of those parents say they have driven more frequently to school. This could indicate more parents are driving their children to school rather than sending them on the bus or other public transportation due to the ongoing pandemic.
  • One in five (21%) millennials, aged 18-34, say they have driven more frequently to their place of employment in the last 30 days, demonstrating the desire for this age demographic to work outside the home despite ongoing COVID-19 concerns and variants.
  • Further, perhaps in light of rising concern over the Delta variant, 30% of Americans have cancelled, postponed or changed the destination of upcoming travel plans due to COVID-19.

“Daily driving can serve as an indicator of normalcy, especially considering commutes to work, school and other regular activities,” said Brooklyn Emery, brand communications manager at Hankook Tire. “So while we’re seeing a trend towards the return of in-person events such as sports games and concerts, it is clear from our latest Gauge Index that the pandemic’s effects are lingering, especially when it comes to the impact on our driving routines.”

Even with less frequent driving, Americans are keeping to regular vehicle maintenance schedules, a reversal from earlier in the pandemic. Only 12% of drivers said they have postponed regular car maintenance in the last 30 days. Comparatively, in April 2020, nearly half of drivers (47%) noted they had delayed or cancelled a scheduled maintenance appointment due to the pandemic.

The Hankook Tire Gauge Index is a survey of Americans’ attitudes and opinions about driving. The latest survey, conducted Sept. 7-9, polled 2,432 randomly selected Americans age 18-plus who have a valid U.S. driver’s license.