Why Teens are Driving Less
January 24, 2014
America is notoriously known for its driving culture. This is obvious through our freedom to go where we want when we want to individually pervades our movies, music, food, and nearly every other aspect of our lives. Surprisingly though, the “I want it now” generation has taken the proverbial backseat when it comes to obtaining their licenses. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), teens are driving progressively less each year.
“Vehicles-miles traveled” (VMT) has dropped a great deal in the past year, dropping 25 percent compared to the past year. It seems that energy consumption plays a significant role in this trend, for U.S. energy consumption that fuels cars is expected to drop one-quarter to 12.1 quadrillion btu’s by 2040.
So is this indifference to driving a passing phase, or are we entering the last bastion of American driving culture? With self-driving cars and technological advantages in automobiles on the rise, driving may actually be on its way out.
Causes for Less Driving
Researchers at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) have found that the percentage of young drivers is inversely related to the proportion of Internet users, and those in the “Internet age” are simply driving less. It seems as though social media may take the place of motorized transportation, either fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it).
“Virtual contact, through electronic means, reduces the need for actual contact,” said Michael Sivak, a research professor in UMTRI’s human factors group.
Sivak is furthering his theory that international data compiled by the Michigan researchers compiled showing that in countries around the world that higher proportion of Internet users throughout the world leads to lower rates of licensed drivers.
The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) disputes this “virtual access” theory. Their analysis demonstrates that U.S. collision insurance policies confirm the trend, showing the 12 percent drop in covered teen drivers since 2006.
“It looks like teens just can’t afford to drive,” said HLDI Vice President Matt Moore. “Paying for their own cars, gas, and insurance is hard if they can’t find a job.”
The nonprofit U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) also feels that something fundamental has changed in how younger people are dealing with transportation.
“Many members of Generation Y have reduced their driving because they choose to take transportation alternatives instead of cars to school, work, and recreation, and because many have chosen to live in ways that require less time behind a card,” PIRG reported. “Growing evidence – both anecdotal and quantitative – suggests that some of this change is being driven by shifts in young people’s priorities and preferences, shifts that could very well persist as Generation Y ages.”
This makes a great deal of sense as car and bike share programs are beginning to pop up in major metropolitan areas. Though theories, these explanations are backed by quantitative data, which is bad news for the automobile industry.