Driving Less and Enjoying it More
Only 31 percent of American 16-year-olds had a driver’s license in 2008, down from 46 percent in 1983, according to a University of Michigan study published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention. Eighteen-year-old legal drivers decreased from 80 to 65 percent over the same period, as did adults in their 20s and 30s, although by not as much. A new survey by the car-sharing company Zipcar confirmed that those with licenses are trying to drive less, as well.
Altogether, more than half of drivers under the age of 44 are making efforts to reduce the time they spend in traffic. Factors supporting this trend include the high cost of gas and insurance, tighter restrictions on teen drivers in many states and congested roads.
In addition, Michael Sivak, a research professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, cites the importance of the Internet. “It is possible that the availability of virtual contact through electronic means reduces the need for actual contact among young people.” He also points out that, “Some young people feel that driving interferes with texting and other electronic communication.”
Public transit is filling part of the vacuum. The United States, which has long trailed other countries in mass transit usage, is catching on among younger generations.