By Ryan McGreal
Published June 01, 2010
Now this is interesting: the share of 16- to 19-year-olds with drivers licences is in decline.
The trend appears to extend through the 20s as well:
The share of automobile miles driven by people ages 21 to 30 in the U.S. fell to 13.7% in 2009 from 18.3% in 2001 and 20.8% in 1995 ...
Meanwhile, Census data show the proportion of people ages 21-30 increased from 13.3% to 13.9%, so 20-somethings actually went from driving a disproportionate amount of the nation's highway miles in 1995 to under-indexing for driving in 2009.
That is, 21- to 30-year-olds now make up a larger share of the total population but their share of driving is falling.
To explain this, the article author turns to William Draves, a higher education consultant, who argues that we can thank the internet for this shift:
His theory is that almost everything about digital media and technology makes cars less desirable or useful and public transportation a lot more relevant.
Texting while driving is dangerous and increasingly illegal, as is watching mobile TV or working on your laptop. All, at least under favorable wireless circumstances, work fine on the train.
The internet and mobile devices also have made telecommuting increasingly common, displacing both cars and public transit.
In a broader sense, the author cites other analysts arguing that the automobile no longer represents "freedom" to young people in the way that it once did.
While it's tempting to assume that the shift is due in part to the economy, the author notes that the trend predates the recession by several years. (On the other hand, the steady rise in oil prices over the past decade may be a factor.)