People my age were able to get learner’s driving permits at the age of 14. That’s pretty scary in retrospect, and I’m glad teenagers now have to wait until age 16. Back then, my friends and I couldn’t wait to get our licenses and drive. Apparently things have changed. Young people today don’t feel the same need to drive as early as possible. One reason may be the fact that kids can stay in touch with their friends so easily now by using text messaging, e-mail, or social media sites such as Facebook. So there’s not as compelling a need for face-to-face contact.
This change in attitude was detailed in a recent article in the Dallas Morning News. Here are excerpts:
Their reasons vary, but a report released earlier this month by the Frontier Group and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund shows that the number of 14- to 34-year-olds nationwide without a license increased from 21 percent to 26 percent between 2000 and 2010.
The trend is even stronger in Texas. While 82 percent of people between the ages of 20 and 24 had a driver’s license in 2000, only 74 percent had one in 2010, according to the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau. There was also a drop in the number of people 19 and younger with licenses. from 47 to 38 percent.
Michael Sivak, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, has found similar changes in his studies. He discovered that the number of young people with driver’s licenses is declining internationally in countries with an increasing Internet presence.
“Virtual contact through electronic means reduces the need for actual contact among young people,” Sivak said in an email interview. “Furthermore, some young people feel that driving interferes with texting.”
Phung believes that the Internet and the increased presence of social media play a role in some students deciding not to get a license, specifically those still in high school.
The report also cites a greater interest in alternative modes of transportation, high gas prices and a desire to leave less of an impact on the environment in the decline in young drivers.
The study also found that young people are most likely to prefer living in areas within walking distance to retailers, restaurants, schools and public transportation.
Experts believe that if the number of young people without driver’s licenses continues to drop, car sales could be affected.