The cell phone may be replacing the driver’s license as the American teenager’s stereotypical badge of freedom. In 1982, only 13% of teenagers skipped out on getting a driver’s license. In 2010, a full 30.5% of 19-year-olds polled by the U.S. Census and Federal Highway Administration lacked the ability to drive legally, and it looks like the trend will continue.
For some, the drop-off has to do with the ease of mass transit compared to traffic headaches. Industry insiders also point towards the lack of inspiring vehicles marketed towards teenagers. As analyst Joe Phillipi of AutoTrends Consulting told NBC News, “I used to always work on my car, changing the oil or the sparkplugs.” With today’s cars, Phillipi continued, “unless you’re a computer geek,” you can’t work on them. A recent study by researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute highlights an even more pertinent competitor: many young people are satisfied with substituting conversations over Twitter and other digital media with the face-to-face contact that car culture used to provide.
Have you noticed a similar trend? If you’re under 21 and you don’t have a license, why not?
Brandon Schoettle, Research Associate at the University of Michigan