* 28-cent jump in gasoline doesn't scare away U.S. drivers
* Travel up most in South Atlantic, drops most in West
* Monthly U.S. gasoline price set Feb record of $3.21
(Adds graphics on regional highway travel, urban and rural
By Tom Doggett
WASHINGTON, April 20 U.S. highway travel rose
0.9 percent in February from a year earlier, indicating that
Americans drivers did not to curb their travel habits despite
rising pump prices.
Data released by the U.S. Transportation Department on
Wednesday showed that U.S. vehicle miles rose for the 12th
month in a row, even though gasoline prices jumped 28 cents a
gallon during February and 57 cents from a year earlier and
severe winter storms kept drivers off the roads in some
The data is an early indication that American consumers
were absorbing rising gasoline prices without yet curbing their
driving habits, as they did the last time pump prices soared in
2008, according to Phil Flynn, energy analyst at PFGBest
Research in Chicago.
However, Flynn said he expected gasoline demand to
eventually decline due to rising fuel costs. "These prices are
going to curtail demand over the summer," he said.
"What will kill the consumer is if we see sharp spikes in
gasoline prices due to another supply disruption in the Middle
East. I think that's the biggest threat," Flynn said.
The national monthly price for gasoline set a February
record of $3.21 a gallon. That was a far cry from the all-time
high of $4.11 for the U.S. average gasoline price hit in July
2008. This week's average U.S. pump price is $3.84 a gallon.
Graphic-regional travel: r.reuters.com/vad29r
Graphic-urban, rural travel: r.reuters.com/med29r
The number of miles driven during the first two months of
this year was up 0.6 percent, about 2.8 billion miles higher,
from the same period in 2010, the department said.
February's 0.9 percent rise in highway travel was a
reversal from last February's 2.9 percent decline. January 2011
travel was also much higher from a year earlier, up 0.4 percent
compared with a drop of 1.7 percent last January.
Highway travel was up the most in February in the South
Atlantic region stretching from Maryland to Florida, rising 4.5
The steepest decline was in the West, where the number of
miles driven fell 1.6 percent.
The Transportation Department tracks motorists through more
than 4,100 automatic traffic recorders operated by state
(Reporting by Tom Doggett; Graphics by Emily Stephenson;
Editing by John Picinich and Marguerita Choy)