Texting in traffic (by Flickr user Mo Riza)Enlarge Photo
Given the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and other forms of connected devices, the results of a new study that today’s young adults just aren’t that interested in driving shouldn’t come as any surprise.
As parents, maybe that comes as some consolation, not having to shell out extra expense for another set of wheels, added insurance premiums, and gasoline and maintenance costs.
What’s the study all about? As reported in Automotive News (subscription required), researchers at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) looked at licensure rates in the United States and other countries and found that countries with a higher proportion of Internet users is associated with a lower rate of licensure among young people.
According to the study authors, Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, one-third of licensed drivers in the United States were under the age of 30 in 1983. Fast-forward to today and only about 22 percent of licensed drivers in this country are “twentysomethings” or teenagers.
Another interesting finding is that about 94 percent of Americans in their twenties had their driver’s license back in 1983, whereas in 2008, it had declined to about 84 percent.
Sivak, who is also a research professor at the UMTRI, observed that the finding that countries with higher proportions of Internet users was associated with lower licensure rates among young people is “consistent with the hypothesis that access to virtual contact through electronic means reduces the need for actual contact among young people.”
Some may find it troubling that young adults would seemingly rather surf the Web than get in a car and go, but haven’t we already seen a large shift in the way our teens spend a majority of their free time? It doesn’t matter where they are, or what time of the day or night it is, if they have a smartphone and computer, they’re interacting via social media, email, webcams and chat rooms.
Just try to pry them away from it to come to the dinner table.
All kidding aside, though, don’t expect this to translate into a single-car family any time soon. But down the line, there may be implications on how today’s young adults buy vehicles, what form of transportation they use to get around when they need to, and all of that will likely impact the kind and amount of transportation available in society.