Many young people would rather surf the web than drive a car

March 30, 2012 By Bernie DeGroat

( -- More young adults today would rather hit the information highway than the open highway, say University of Michigan researchers.

In a new study in the journal Prevention, Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the U-M Transportation Research Institute found that having a higher proportion of Internet users was associated with lower licensure rates among young persons.

And this is just not in the ; it's happening in other countries, too.

Sivak and Schoettle examined recent changes in the United States and 14 other countries in the percentage of persons with driver's licenses as a function of age. They found that half of the other countries showed the same age-related pattern of changes in driver licensing as did the United States—a decrease in young and an increase in older drivers.

In 1983, a third of all licensed drivers in the United States were under age 30. Today, only about 22 percent of drivers are twentysomethings or teenagers. Further, about 94 percent of Americans in their 20s had a driver's license in 1983, compared to about 84 percent in 2008.

Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Norway and South Korea have seen similar declines over time. However, countries such as Israel, Finland, Poland, Latvia, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands have experienced an increase in both young and older drivers over time—although the increase was generally smaller among the younger group.

"Higher societal wealth, an older population in general and a higher proportion of the population living in megacities were each associated with higher licensure rates among young persons," said Sivak, a research professor at UMTRI. "These patterns are possibly reflections of higher mobility being associated with these factors.

"On the other hand, countries with higher proportions of were associated with lower licensure rates among young persons, which is consistent with the hypothesis that access to virtual contact through electronic means reduces the need for actual contact among young people."

Sivak and Schoettle say that future licensing trends by age will have potentially

major implications for future transportation and its consequences. Specifically, licensing trends will likely affect the future amount and nature of transportation, transportation mode selection, vehicle purchases, safety of travel and environmental consequences of travel.

Explore further: Fewer young, but more elderly, have driver's license

Related Stories

Fewer young, but more elderly, have driver's license

December 2, 2011

A lower proportion of young people have a driver's license today compared to their counterparts in the early 1980s—a trend not found among older age groups, a University of Michigan study shows.

Recommended for you

Amber specimen offers rare glimpse of feathered dinosaur tail

December 8, 2016

Researchers have discovered a dinosaur tail complete with its feathers trapped in a piece of amber. The finding reported in Current Biology on December 8 helps to fill in details of the dinosaurs' feather structure and evolution, ...

Scheduling leisure activities makes them less fun: study

December 8, 2016

Nothing ruins a potentially fun event like putting it on your calendar. In a series of studies, researchers found that scheduling a leisure activity like seeing a movie or taking a coffee break led people to anticipate less ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3.3 / 5 (10) Mar 30, 2012
There's a lot of stuff going on here.

in 1983 to 87, you could buy a Japanese brand truck and literally and literally talk the dealer down to 7k to 10k on price. Same vehicle now costs 3 or 4 times as much, while income has not gone up much at all, especially for young people.

Insurance costs have doubled or tripled.

Fuel price has quadrupled or quintupled.

So overall, driving literally costs 3 to 5 times as much today as it did in the early 1980's, while income has gone up by less than a factor of 2, and in most cases has only gone up a few percent.

Additionally, driving was once thought of as a status symbol or as something fun and relaxing, now it's just annoying; you're stuck in traffic somewhere, waiting for the guy in front of you to get out of the way, etc.

For some people who live in the right sorts of locations, it makes absolute sense for them to not own an automobile at all. It's just a waste of money.
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 30, 2012
Fair point Lurker, at first I saw this conclusion as nutty that kids aren't driving. But what you said makes complete sense.. Maybe that's the way to 'go green'. Just price most people out of being able to drive at all.
2 / 5 (6) Mar 30, 2012
Of course, when the young people had no substitution, they even preffered the embroidery and reading of religious books. Does it mean something deeper than that?
4.8 / 5 (5) Mar 30, 2012
"driving was once thought of as a status symbol or as something fun and relaxing, now it's just annoying"
I couldn't agree with you more.
Sold my car three years ago, ride a bicycle every day, lost 70 pounds (from 274 to 204), feel great.
2.3 / 5 (6) Mar 30, 2012
Gas costs 3.89 a gallon. I don't know about today's teenagers but I'd rather surf than drive, as well.
3 / 5 (3) Mar 30, 2012
If people stop buying cars then what will they advertise on TV?
1 / 5 (1) Mar 30, 2012
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 30, 2012
I saw an informal poll of ConservaTard Americans a couple of weeks ago, in reference to a story about the U.S. energy secretary not owning a car.

About 90% of the ConservaTards voted that they found the fact "scary".

Ahahahahahahah..... Cowards and fools, all of them.
1 / 5 (4) Mar 30, 2012
I can imagine how much more "safe" this could seem to be.

OTOH, nothing beats meeting other human beings on their own turf.

@Lurker2358 Geez... get a life!
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 01, 2012
Car sharing is much more efficient for those who use a vehicle infrequently, don't want to deal with the incessant parking and DMV paperwork. It's like a neighborhood car rental. One startup does exactly that. If it takes off that could cut the proliferation of vehicles in LA by half.
not rated yet Apr 02, 2012
@kochevnik Perhaps even reduce traffic jams.. Of course what would help even more is taking back the subway property from the car companies and actually making a subway over there.
2.1 / 5 (7) Apr 02, 2012
Reminds me of myself in many ways. The information highway can be more exciting sometimes. Not to mention less traffic and bad drivers.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.