Maine is near the top of the list of states showing a decline in highway miles driven in September.
American motorists drove 10.7 billion fewer miles in September than they did for the same month last year, according to the Federal Highway Administration. That’s a decline of 4.4 percent.
In Maine, the number of highway miles driven for the month was down 7.5 percent. Only South Carolina (down 8.4 percent) and Vermont (down 7.9 percent) had steeper declines. New Hampshire was down 6.7 percent.
Only one state, North Dakota, showed an increase for the month.
The decline in northern New England states is probably greater than the nation as a whole because the region is rural and people are more reliant on their cars to get places, said Maine Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner Greg Nadeau.
“Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont would all be in the category of much more auto-dependent than states that are more densely populated and might have more options to choose from,” he said.
Nadeau said he thinks Mainers are driving less because of economic pressures, while commercial trucking is also down. As the economy declines, demand for goods goes down. That results in less freight being moved over the nation’s highways, he said.
Americans have driven fewer miles each month this year compared with 2007. The number of miles driven in September — 232.8 billion miles — was the lowest September total since 2003.
Even though gas prices have been falling as of late, AAA is forecasting a decline of 600,000 people who will be traveling during the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. If the forecast holds up, it would be the first decline in Thanksgiving holiday travel since 2002.
“The economic impact, the punishment that gas has put on the American consumer these first 10 months, has resulted in a little less money to get out and travel,” said AAA spokesman Pat Moody.
According to AAA, a gallon of self-serve regular in Maine was averaging $2.04 on Monday — with many stations offering even lower prices. Prices have fallen 76 cents in the past month and $1.13 over the past year.
The average price of gas peaked at $4.14 a gallon in July.
Diesel prices have also come down, with AAA putting the average price at $2.95 a gallon Monday. That’s down from $3.49 a month ago and $4.90 in late July.