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CALPIRG Education Fund
Sacramento Bee
Tony Bizjak

America's love affair with cars has cooled.

That's what the California Public Interest Research Group proclaimed on Thursday.

The consumer advocacy coalition released a study showing that Americans have been consistently cutting back on the number of miles they drive for the last half-dozen years.

The trend started earlier in a few states, including California, where individual driving mileage peaked in 1999. Drivers here travel 8 percent fewer miles now than they did then.

In fact, despite the size of our state, Californians drive on average just 9,000 miles a year, ranking the state a mere 40th nationally.

Some of the reduced mileage is no doubt due to the mid-2000s recession that left many people sitting at home instead of driving to and from work.

But the turnaround started in most states long before the recession. The earliest were California, Oregon, Washington and a few others more than a decade ago.

We've definitely heard more drivers talking in recent years about gas prices, congestion, commute lengths, carbon footprints and climate change.

CalPIRG says young adults are most apt to use alternatives to cars when getting around daily.

Government "should push the reset button" and try to encourage those attitudes by building more walkable and bikable urban-style neighborhoods, CalPIRG's Garo Manjikian said.

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