With motorists facing record gasoline prices, the year saw the first decrease for the mileage statistic since it began rising in 1980, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
"In 2005 and into 2006, we did see consumers start to change their driving behavior," said David Portalatin, director of industry analysis at NPD Group Inc., which tracks consumer spending. "That's a very hard thing to change, because I've either got to change where I work, where I live, or what kind of car I drive in order to actually consume less gasoline."
Daniel Yergin, chairman of Boston-area consulting company Cambridge Energy Research Associates, said the high price of gas is affecting "America's love affair with the automobile."
"The message is that price matters," he said of the lowered per-driver mileage.
Although prices have eased from their mid-2006 record highs, Yergin said "there's a greater sense of insecurity, and people don't want to be caught emptying their wallet at the gasoline pump."