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Behind the wheel

Kenny Watkins drives his Ford Expedition about 25 miles each day, from his Lookout Mountain home to the Komatsu plant on Signal Mountain Road. Watkins is 40, and according to the American Driver Survey, his driving habits look about the same as those of most Americans his age.

A year's worth of data from the survey, sponsored by AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety and the Urban Institute, provide some insights into the average American driver. They seem to behave much like Watkins.

Nationally, drivers ages 16 and older drive about 29 miles and spend an average of 46 minutes in their cars each day. That adds up to an average of 10,558 miles per year.

Drivers over 75 and teenage drivers drive far less than other groups, while motorists age 30-49 drive the most and averaged 13,140 miles per year.

Other data seem to prove what anyone who has scraped an icy windshield might be able to guess: motorists drive the least in the winter months, averaging only 25.7 miles per day, and the most during the summer, at 30.6 miles daily.

Bart Schubert, 36, said he's actually more likely to drive in the winter. He lives so close to work that he drives only a few miles a day, and said a tank of gas might last him three weeks.

The study didn't provide much insight into what modes of transportation drivers might choose over their cars. But the data did reveal some regional differences.

For instance, the study found that motorists in the South drive more than those in the Northeast, and that Americans who reported living in "the country" or "a small town" drove greater distances and spent more time in their cars than those who live in a "medium-sized town."

The study is ongoing, so results available now were based on a nationwide sample of 3,319 drivers in a sample collected between May 21, 2013, and May 31, 2014. The results represent the first major collection of this type of data since 2009, according to AAA.

The organization says it will compare information gleaned in the study to crash data.

"These insights will help guide what Americans can do to stay safe behind the wheel," Michele Harris, a Traffic Safety Consultant with AAA, said in a news release.

Contact staff writer Claire Wiseman at cwiseman@timesfreepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @clairelwiseman.

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