U.S. drivers logging record miles in 2016

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American drivers logged a record number of miles in the first three months of the year, as travel rose 4.2 percent to 746 billion miles, the U.S. Transportation Department said on Friday.

A truck delivers round modules of cotton to be ginned at the farmer-owned Milstead Farm Group gin in Shorter, Alabama October 26, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

In March this year, Americans drove 273.4 billion miles, up 5 percent from the same month last year. March 2016 saw the most U.S. driving ever, according to seasonally adjusted data, the government said.

In 2015, Americans drove a record 3.15 trillion miles, up 3.5 percent from 2014.

American drivers are benefiting from low gasoline prices, which are helping to boost miles traveled, analysts say.

The U.S. average retail price for gasoline was $2.30 per gallon on May 23, which was 47 cents lower than at the same time last year, and the lowest average price before Memorial Day weekend since 2009, the U.S Energy Information Agency said.

Memorial Day marks the start of the U.S. summer driving season.

AAA, the U.S. travel club, projects nearly 34 million Americans will drive this Memorial Day weekend to a holiday destination - the second-highest Memorial Day travel volume on record and up 2.1 percent over last year.

Despite record driving, U.S. gasoline usage has fallen because of rising fuel efficiency standards. In 2015, about 140.43 billion gallons of gasoline were consumed in the United States - a daily average of about 384.74 million gallons.

This was about 1.5 percent less than the record high of about 390 million gallons per day in 2007. That year, Americans logged 3.03 trillion miles - or about 115 billion fewer miles than last year.

More miles traveled means more U.S. road deaths. The National Safety Council in February released preliminary estimates that U.S. road deaths rose 8 percent in 2015 from 2014 – in what would be the largest year-over-year percentage increase in 50 years.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Phil Berlowitz