New York Times Shocker: Less Driving Means Less Congestion, More TV-Watching

February 25, 2009
The open road

The open road

Remember back in December when we told you that traffic accidents were down because Americans were driving less? Or earlier this month, when we mentioned that two organizations confirmed that 2008 saw a 10% drop in accident fatalities? Well, the New York Times is quoting another study that goes one shocking step further: according to traffic data aggregator Inrix, Americans did, in fact, drive less in 2008--and that led to less congestion on highways.

We know: we can hardly believe it ourselves.

In all seriousness, there's at least one interesting bit to come from the Inrix study: single-digit drops in traffic (identified months ago by both USA Today and the Times) have led to double-digit drops in traffic congestion. No guesses as to how the effect could grow so exponentially, but it's an interesting statistic.

Also interesting: Inrix and the Gray Lady attribute the drop in traffic congestion more to the recession than to the high gas prices Americans saw last year. Their primary rationale? Congestion didn't start declining until the latter half of 2008, after gas prices had already begun falling. We could counter that it simply took a while for people to change their driving habits (just as it takes temperatures a while to fall after the summer solstice), but we won't got there.

Less interesting: in another study released this week, Neilsen revealed that America's TV-watching habits have shot up. The Times thinks that has to do with unemployed people staying home. We think the Times staff hasn't played hooky in a while; if they had, they'd know that daytime TV is the best incentive to get off the sofa and go look for a job.

[source: New York Times]

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