In 1983, about 46 percent of 16-year-old Americans had a driver’s license, but by 2008, only 31 percent had one, according to a recent study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
Older teens are also driving less: The number of 18-year-olds with licenses fell from 80 percent in 1983 to 65 percent in 2008, while the number of 17-year-olds on the road dropped from 69 percent to 50 percent.
In fact, the number of drivers all the way up to 29 has dropped, according to the study, which is based on data from the Federal Highway Administration.
Study co-author Michael Sivak says the Internet may be a big reason for the drop. “Virtual contact through electronic means reduces the need for actual contact,” Sivak wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times, adding jokingly, “My favorite characterization of the social-media explanation (with some anecdotal evidence for it) is that ‘driving interferes with texting.’ ”
Concerns about preserving the environment, the recent economic downturn and a migration of young people to the cities — where public transportation is more readily available — likely are all contributing to the lack of interest in driving, Sivak said.