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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Motorists logged 272 billion miles (438 billion km) on U.S. roads and highways in March, a 0.8 percent increase year-on-year, according to data released on Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
U.S. vehicle miles traveled is up 1.5 percent year-over-year through the first three months of 2017. Motorists logged record volumes last year.
The continued strength in U.S. motor travel is welcome news for U.S. oil refiners and bullish traders who have seen signs of weakening demand for gasoline in January and February.
U.S. gasoline demand, which accounts for 10 percent of global demand, was down 2.1 percent year-over-year during the first two months of the year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Preliminary weekly EIA estimates peg demand dropping 1 percent in March, figures show.
The average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the U.S. has risen by 0.2 miles-per-gallon since the start of the year, hitting 25.3 mpg in April, according to researches Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
The value for April is up 5.2 mpg since October 2007 - the first month of the university research - but down 0.2 mpg from the peak of 25.5 mpg reached in August 2014.
"One explanation for U.S. gasoline demand and vehicle miles traveled going in different directions is better fuel efficiency," said Linda Giesecke, a demand analyst at WoodMackenzie.
Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Marguerita Choy