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Fewer Boomers Driving Daily During Pandemic

Most don't anticipate a quick return to their old road habits

Park Avenue stands near empty during the coronavirus pandemic

Noam Galai/Getty Images

Park Avenue stands near empty during the coronavirus pandemic on May 30, 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the brakes on daily road trips for many boomers, according to a new survey that found about half as many older Americans now are using their cars daily compared with before the coronavirus outbreak.

About 1 in 5 boomers (22.4 percent) used their cars on a daily basis in August, down from 41.5 percent in January, according to a survey of 1,105 U.S. adults from the website, which helps consumers compare credit cards, insurance and bank account options.

Boomers’ reduced driving is comparable to the population as a whole, according to research analyst Matt Timmons. The survey found about a third of the overall U.S. population was still getting behind the wheel every day, down from about half who drove daily before the pandemic.

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"Because 60 percent of baby boomer respondents were not working pre-pandemic, it's safe to assume that a large portion of those people driving daily were doing so for things like shopping, medical visits and entertainment,” Timmons said. “As all of those things were recommended to be severely curtailed in light of the pandemic, many of these trips are likely to have been stopped."

Only 8.9 percent of boomers no longer have a daily commute because they now work from home, while another 8.2 percent don't commute because they've been laid off or furloughed.

The plunge in driving for all ages was at its low point in April, according to the Federal Highway Administration's monthly estimate of traffic volume trends. Americans drove about 169.6 billion miles then, less than the 198.2 billion miles reported 25 years ago in 1995.

By June, the most recent month available, travel had picked up to 244.7 billion miles but was still 13 percent lower than last year. Federal officials estimated that the number of vehicle miles declined by 26.3 percent in the second quarter of this year compared to 2019.

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Because of the initial steep decline in driving, many auto insurers, including the 10 largest, refunded between 10 percent and 25 percent of customers’ premiums for April, May and June — the second quarter of the year. Most companies ended those givebacks by July as traffic continued its upward trend.

Most boomers expect to be driving infrequently for a while, according to the survey. Just 13 percent say they expect to resume their old driving habits in the next month or two, and just 24.9 percent figure they'll be back to normal by the end of the year.

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