Why are Young Americans Driving Less?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Cars waiting for a buyer in Weston, FL. (emilio labrador/flickr)

The open road: it’s part of the American dream. Or, at least, it used to be. While in the past, teenagers scrambled to the DMV on their 16th birthdays, eager to pass their driving exams, today, they’re more likely to meander there, or not go there at all. A new study finds that 16- to 34-year-olds without driver’s licenses rose to 26 percent in 2010 from 21 percent a decade earlier. At the same time, biking, walking, and other driving alternatives rose among young people in the past decade.

Tony Dutzik is a senior policy analyst at the Frontier Group and co-author of the study. Takeaway listener Emily is a 25-year-old who rarely drives, and didn't get her license until she was 19.

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Tony Dutzik

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer


Tory Starr

Comments [5]

shakil888 from dhaka

While driving by low walls, houses or alley ways roll down your window and listen to the vehicle. You shouldn't hear anything besides the engine and tires carvision.com. Listen for clicking, ticking or grinding noises noises? They will be more apparent when echoed off of stationary objects you're driving by.

Jun. 13 2012 02:28 AM
Jeannie from Boston

In our fifties & have been "commuting" upstairs or downstairs for twenty years - I know u want this to be a young thing but... Plus we hv no kids - so carbon footprint pretty small - also lived in cities for our whole lives until recently & now only 15 miles out...& going back soon if American cities ever get live-able (trash, noisy neighbors w no respect for each other) again...Hate to burst your bubble but commuting by transit has been around for a while!

Apr. 23 2012 09:33 AM
Jennifer from South Brunswick

We live in Central Jersey and I know that immigrant status has something to do with the lower number of kids, particularly girls, getting their licenses. I know several girls, all but one of them Asian, who didn't want to or weren't allowed/encouraged to get their licenses. I guess the parents didn't see it as a milestone worth achieving, especially for girls? I don't know. I was pretty shocked, to tell you the truth. As the old driving school ad used to say 'You start to live when you learn to drive!" at least that's how we felt at 16.

My daughter drives all the time and I encourage her to do so. Practice makes perfect.

Apr. 21 2012 11:42 AM
Zach from Pittsburgh, PA (WESA, Essential Public Radio)

I had to "put down" my first car (an old saab) a little over a year ago, and Public Transportation in Pittsburgh isn't great. I bought a used VW, and the financial burden of having a car is rivaled only by my student loans. I do like having the option to drive- that feeling that I can get away, or go wherever I need to at the drop of a hat, but as I'm thinking of moving this summer, getting closer to downtown and I bike more and more. My city is becoming more and more bike friendly- but I still wish the light rail was better.

Apr. 20 2012 09:29 AM
N Dalton from WV

Maybe I'm wrong about this, but it seems we went from a generation of youth in the 70s who worked to be able to buy a modest used car (maybe from a family member), to a generation of youth who expected their parents to buy new cars for them (often seen as right of passage), to a generation's who parents can no longer afford this and where the youth can't even conceive of working & saving to buy their own car. I remember getting a modest used car because I had to go to work in high school. I don't think it's just the economy, but we have a generation who don't have an expectation they need to work. I think they'd rather play with their smartphones (which their parents foot the bill for) and just aren't expected to work for a lot of things - including a car. If they had to pay for their own smartphones, I believe this whole paradigm would change. Learning at a young age how hard I needed to work to pay for things I wanted was a very valuable lesson.

Apr. 20 2012 07:32 AM

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