WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. highway travel declined 1.4 percent in March from a year ago as gasoline prices rose, marking the first year-on-year decline in the number of miles driven in 13 months, the U.S. Transportation Department said on Friday.
The report provided some of the first government evidence that soaring prices at the pump have discouraged driving. The national gasoline price rose 21 cents a gallon during March and climbed until it reached nearly $4 this month.
Fuel prices are now falling nationwide, reflecting cheaper crude oil.
Highway travel for the first three months of this year was down 0.1 percent from the same period in 2010, the department said.
Driving was down in March in every region of the country, except in the southern Gulf states from Alabama to Texas, where the number of miles driven was unchanged from a year ago.
Highway travel fell the most on the West Coast, down 2.6 percent, where gasoline prices are traditionally the highest in the United States
The Transportation Department tracks motorists through more than 4,100 automatic traffic recorders operated by state highway agencies.
(Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Alden Bentley)