Teens Give Up the Wheel

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Monday, April 9, 2012

Teens Give Up the Wheel

The days of teens yearning to get behind the wheel may be on the wane as online social networking replaces cars as the technological focal point for young adults.

Recent research shows that a shrinking percentage of young people are getting their driver’s licenses, and that a smaller proportion of cars on the road are driven by teens and 20-somethings.

Meanwhile, members of this younger demographic say they’re replacing car trips to see friends with online chat sessions, text messages and other social networking opportunities.

“It is possible that the availability of virtual contact through electronic means reduces the need for actual contact among young people,” said Michael Sivak, a research professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. “Furthermore, some young people feel that driving interferes with texting and other electronic communication.”

In 1983, about 87 percent of 19-year-olds had their licenses, according to the institute’s 2011 report. Twenty-five years later, the percentage had dropped to about 75 percent. Other teen driving groups with licenses have also declined significantly.

Young people are also making fewer and shorter car trips. Between 2001 to 2009, the average number of vehicle miles traveled by those between the ages of 16 and 34 fell from 10,300 to 7,900 miles per year — a drop of 23 percent. In the same period, the number of miles traveled annually by that age group on public transit increased by 40 percent.

Source: The Daily