PORTLAND (AP) — You may not believe this if you’re a regular victim of rush-hour gridlock, but Oregonians are driving less.At its 2004 peak, the average distance traveled per person per year in Oregon was 9,936 miles, according to analysis of traffic data by The Oregonian newspaper.The number dropped to 8,836 miles during the 2008 recession and has continued to fall — to 8,548 in 2012 — despite the improving economy.The figures reflect a national trend researchers call “driving light.” Motorists often get behind the wheel only when they must, such as getting to and from jobs at the same time as everybody else — hence the bottlenecks.“They’re certainly not becoming anti-car,” said Jackie Douglas, executive director of the Boston-based alternative-transportation advocacy group LivableStreets Alliance and widely credited with coining the term “driving light.” “But with the cost of driving, along with tightening budgets and changing attitudes, more households are realizing they don’t need to drive everywhere and they don’t need a car for every family member who can drive.”Other numbers show the trend may continue. In 2003, 85 percent of 16-to-21-year-old Oregonians were licensed to drive. It’s now 71 percent. Also, passenger vehicle ownership has increased only 4 percent in the past decade, even as Oregon’s driving-age population jumped 14 percent, Oregon Driver and Motor Vehicle and U.S. Census statistics show.In a few areas, vehicle registration has grown with the population. Since 2002, for example, the number of Washington County residents has increased 16 percent to 547,672 and the number of registered passenger vehicles is up 14 percent to 418,265, suggesting that development patterns, industrial expansion and TriMet cuts in the fast-growing Portland suburbs have left them as car-dependent as ever.