Only 36% of Americans Drive Every Day, A Steep Drop from Earlier in COVID-19 Pandemic

Only 36% of Americans Drive Every Day, A Steep Drop from Earlier in COVID-19 Pandemic

This is far fewer than the number of drivers who expected to be back on the road by the end of 2021, survey finds
aerial scenic view of Pennsylvania Turnpike

Although many Americans look forward to returning to a semblance of normal life after the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems that far fewer are excited about the prospect of returning to their daily driving habits.

The latest set of findings from tire company Hankook Tire revealed that, in September 2021, a little more than a third of Americans (36%) say they drive every day, compared to the 48% who said the same back in April.

Number of drivers who don't get behind the wheel at all increased by 400%

A similar poll conducted by Hankook back in April of this year found that 75% of Americans expected to return to their normal driving habits by the end of 2021. However, the newest iteration of the Hankook Gauge Index showed that was not the case.

In fact, 15% of those who participated in last month's survey admit they don't drive at all — a 400% increase from the 3% who answered similarly in September 2020. Another 79% of American drivers across the country estimate that they drive less than 200 miles per week.

"Daily driving can serve as an indicator of normalcy, especially considering commutes to work, school and other regular activities," says 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."

But although respondents drive far less often than they thought they would, many still keep up with regular maintenance and inspections for their vehicles — a surprising change from the previous survey's findings.

The September 2021 Gauge Index found that only 12% of Americans have postponed their car's maintenance needs in the last 30 days (versus 47% of respondents who delayed or canceled a scheduled maintenance in April 2020).

Latest shift in driving habits may be driven by changes in education, work and travel

In addition to looking at how American driving habits in general have transformed during the coronavirus crisis, the Hankook Gauge Index also assessed what changes may have been responsible for them. It noted that three trends in particular — shifts in education, work and travel — may have driven most of the changes between April and September 2021.

For instance, the report found that:

  • 30% of parents with children under 18 years old drive over 200 miles per week
  • 22% of parents of younger children have driven more frequently to school
  • 21% of millennials (ages 18-34) have driven more frequently to their workplace in the last 30 days
  • 30% of Americans have canceled, postponed or changed the destination of their upcoming travel plans due to the pandemic

However, a recent survey from The Vacationer found that 53% of American adults still had plans to travel for Labor Day weekend — suggesting that people are comfortable with traveling despite the risks posed by newer coronavirus variants.

Methodology: Hankook Tire conducted a survey of 2,432 randomly selected American adults (ages 18 and older) with a valid driver's license between Sept. 7-9, 2021.