Those who long for the days of bell bottoms, massive Afros and dominance of the Philadelphia Flyers may think of the mid-'70s as a good time, but when it came to how much of our dollars were being spent on gas, times were tough. According to the most recent version of a report from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), the distance driven per dollar of gross domestic product (GDP) peaked in 1977 and has dropped 22 percent since then. Fuel use per GDP dollar hit its high in 1972 (ever fill up a '72 Buick Riviera like the one pictured above?) and has plunged 46 percent since then.
Keep in mind that the average fuel economy for new light-duty vehicles has doubled to from the early 1970s to its current rate of about 25 miles per gallon, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Still, consistent with a previous version of the UMTRI reports, which said driving mileage per person maxed out around 2004, we are indeed driving less, thanks to factors such as electronic commerce and more data services.