I have VIX data going back to 1986, and over that entire period of time, the average VIX reading was indeed around 17-18, based on calculating 50-month MAs ----- figures range from around 21 in 1989, down to 13 or so in 1996, and now are around 26. It is completely true, however, that since 1997, the VIX has only been below 20 on four major occasions, and not for very long. It is clear that volatility has greatly increased over the past 5-6 years, making that 17 figure not at all applicable to today's markets ---- even though it is the average VIX reading over the past 16 years. As points of reference ----- all-time VIX high 172 (the great crash of October, 1987), all-time low 8.86 in December, 1993. Since 1997, you could fairly say that readings of 25 or less are quite low, 20 or less very low, 35 or more quite high and 45 or more very high.