Americans driving less, SUV fervor cooling

Who woulda thunk it: For the first time in 25 years, Americans are driving less. A study by Cambridge Energy Research Associates finds that the average American drove 13,657 miles in 2005, down from 13,711 in 2004. So that’s, let’s see … um, carry the one … a whopping 54 miles. We’ll take it! Last year also saw SUVs comprise a smaller chunk of new-vehicle sales; even though gas-guzzlers still account for more than half of such sales, “the passion has cooled,” says the report. Data on the actual gas being guzzled was good and bad: While consumption continues to rise, demand grew at a rate of only 0.3 percent last year and 1 percent for the first 11 months of 2006, compared to 1.6 percent per year from 1990 to 2004. High prices were a critical factor in this change to stubborn Yank behavior; gas sucks up about 3.8 percent of average household spending. The graying of the population has also contributed, as older drivers tend to drive less — at least until Dennis Hopper gets ahold of them.