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Young People Are Driving Less and Explaining Why

Monday, April 30, 2012 - 03:16 PM


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(New York, NY -- Kristen Meinzer, The Takeaway) A typical story on The Takeaway morning radio program receives up to a dozen listener comments. Stories that strike a particular cord receive closer to two or three dozen responses. But a story we covered this month received nearly seventy five comments from more than twenty states across the country.

The story was about young people driving less. According to a new study, co-authored by Tony Dutzik and Benjamin Davis of the Frontier Group, 16- to 34-year-olds without driver’s licenses rose to 26 percent in 2010 from 21 percent a decade earlier.  Younger drivers are driving almost a quarter fewer miles than they used to.  At the same time, biking, walking, and other driving alternatives rose among young people in the past decade.

We asked our younger listeners to tell us if they’re driving less and, if so, why.

The top reason was the cost of the gas, as well as the cost of cars.

And a listener from Evans, Georgia texted:

It’s all about the cost. Jobs are scarce or poorly paying and cars, gas, and insurance are expensive.

A listener from Independence, Kansas texted:

Less driving for me means that i don't have to waste as much of my life at underpaying jobs to afford gas, insurance, maintainence, and car payment.

Joseph in Lincoln, Rhode Island wrote:

Gas is more expensive, but have you seen the price of used cars lately? They’ve become way more expensive than they were 10 years ago. I’m currently shopping for a new fuel efficient car.

A listener from Brentwood, New York texted:

I am 24 and I drive less because my car is falling apart and gas is way, way too expensive!

A listener from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma texted:

I sold my car and bought a bike. I haven't bought gas or car insurance in 3 years. That's a big boost to the budget!

Several listeners said their concern for the environment factored in to their decision to drive less.

Nicolas Seguin wrote:

We are more eco-aware than previous generations.

Many said they didn’t enjoy the driving experience or being dependant on a car. Walking, biking and even mass transit, as they see it, are more fun and less stressful.

Jeanette Pierce from Detroit wrote:

I live in Detroit (yes, the Motor City) and I got rid of my car in November because I just wasn't driving it enough (once a month sometimes). I walk to 98% of the things I need/want to. It's great. I don't have to worry about traffic and I don't know what gas costs. it's awesome!

A small handful mentioned health reasons.

David Lagomasino wrote:

Its nice to get the exercise. We sit in traffic, sit at work, sit in traffic on the way home. If we were a little more active we would feel better for so many reasons.

A few said that in the era of the internet, it’s just as easy to watch movies, socialize, and work online.

A listener from Florida wrote:

I drive less because I have become a couch potato. The Internet takes me anywhere I want to go. And services like Netflix provide entertainment at the touch of a button. It’s also a lot more affordable.

And many listeners gave a combination of all of the above reasons, as well as some more philosophical ones.

Samantha Henderson from Denver wrote:

I have two reasons: 1) Damn, gas is expensive, and 2) Greener alternatives: awareness and availability (biking, busing, walking, etc). Also, the motor vehicle is no longer as novel an item as it once was for older generations.

Of course, more than a few people said they were driving as much as ever because they lived in places with limited mass transit, were required to drive long distances for work, or simply enjoyed driving.

A listener from Chicopee, Massachusetts texted:

I find my self driving more and more each year as a small business owner. And I still drive to visit friends or vacation in other states.

And one listener said he had a particular interest in our story, but not because of his own driving habits.

A listener from Mt. Clemens, Michigan texted:

I'm with Chevrolet and we are working extensively on this opportunity. We think its a combination of factors inc. there r few cars that truly meet their needs.

MORE ABOUT THE RESPONSES

WE RECEIVED NEARLY SEVENTY FIVE RESPONSES FROM OVER 20 STATES

Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia.

 

 

VOICEMAIL

This is Bob from Brooklyn I have never driven a car. I  have never had a driver's license.  I take buses and subways and it is a pleasure. I have none of the headaches of owning. I also have 2 bicycles and it's Fun bye.

This is Pete calling from Auburn Tennessee and I find myself driving less now. I only drive out of necessity to get to work and go to the grocery store and stuff like that and the reason is that gasoline is now almost 4 dollars a gallon.

Harry in Key West...(If people drove less) they wouldn't have health problems they wouldn't requires much Medicare and <edicaid so it becomes a cascade of destruction ...

Hi my name is Connie Hanson I listen to The Takeaway on WLRN in Miami, South Florida.  Bpth my boyfriend and I have gone completely car free.  We soldwith our car and commute roughly 20 miles round trip to the office and back everyday as well as running other errands on bike  or on foot.  We live in Waccamaw community despite being farther from work  and actually love it that makes our time so much more pleasant . We even take the bus .

Hi this is Robert in Miami I'm listening to you you guys when I drive and I'm wondering if you've given any consideration to what the impact of your own medium is gonna be as people drive less and less.  I'm guessing most people listening to NPR listen mostly in the car.

Hi this is Cindy calling from New Hampshire and I was calling about the  issue and some people not getting driver's licenses.  I'm 25 but I'm like a lot of other people my age I have a child and so I find that I could do without a car.  I used to live where you could walk to just about anything.  If you live in the suburbs you need a car if you have a family if you live in the city not so much.

Hi this is ... Jonathan I'm calling from Cambridge Massachusetts my wife is 7 years younger so she's around 27 and she doesn't drive she never has ... she doesn’t see the point there's not too much in it for her ...Shopping she can do online ... Socializing she can do a lot of that online ... when she drives she can't check the internet or get text messages to do other things it's much easier to do that on the bus and that's true for a lot of my friends who are a little bit on the younger side ... Just about everybody who lives anywhere near Boston isn't gonna be driving if they don't have to because that's time that could be spent on the smart phones.

Hi my name is Charlie Bratton I'm actually calling in transit from Charleston South Carolina to Blacksburg, Virginia. I studied urban planning. Urban planners for a while have tried to encourage mass transportation and I think that our generation growing up with all these (inaudible) that we have been surrounded with have kind of shied away from wanting to use it and ... yeah thanks bye.

Yeah this is Patrick Oklahoma andI want to put my opinion on the whole car thing. Not all of us can do that because we don't live in big city.


THETAKEAWAY.ORG

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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!

 

 

 

FACEBOOK

Ten responses

 

New York

Adam Edwards I would rather live in NYC than the suburbs.

 

Oklahoma

Derek Roberts I drive an hour to school and work and have an hour or more home (If I get stuck behind school buses). Gas is expensive, so I limit any extraneous driving. Easier to tag along if I need to go someplace.

 

Denver

Samantha Henderson ‎2 reasons: 1) Damn, gas is expensive, and 2) Greener alternatives: awareness and availability (biking, busing, walking, etc). Also, the motor vehicle is no longer as novel an item as it once was for older generations.

 

Location unknown

Nicolas Seguin We are more eco-aware and we are also less rich than previous generations.

 

Miami

David Lagomasino Safer, cleaner, and HEALTHIER alternatives! Why drive 20 min in traffic when it only takes me 30 mins to bike. Include trying to find parking and walking to the building, its actually faster for me to bike. David Lagomasino In addition, its nice to get the exercise. We sit in traffic, sit at work, sit in traffic on the way home. If we were a little more active we would feel better for so many reasons

 

Oklahoma

John Wheeler In Oklahoma we drive a lot. Gas prices are not so high compared to other parts of the nation, but are still prohibitive. Plus our infrastructure is different, we have a small bus fleet in town. The reasons I carpool and bike ride is mostly expense, and I know I am helping the environment by limiting my driving.

 

Arizona

Adam Schenck As a 30-year-old in this economy, I can't afford (and do not want) an oversize house in the distant suburbs. For me, the movement back to more urban areas is more about avoiding those boring "bedroom communities" than it is the cost of gasoline.

 

Indiana

Carmen Moyers ‎1. I hate driving
2. It costs money
3. I finally live in a city that has real public tranist (ann arbor)
4. It's bad for the environment

 

Detroit

Jeanette Pierce I live in Detroit (yes, the Motor City) and I got rid of my car in November because I just wasn't driving it enough (once a month sometimes). I walk to 98% of the things I need/want to. It's great. I don't have to worry about traffic and I don't know what gas costs. it's awesome!

 

 

 

TEXTS

We received over forty text messages from around the country.

 

Michigan

Its too expensive and life is too demanding to spend so much time in a car.

 

Briar Park NY

P.o.g. - price of gas.

 

Denver CO

I don't own a car and work full time. I drove for years but there are alternatives. People should take the time to find other ways and combine trips. Convenience is not worth the consequences.

 

Fort Collins CO

Because I'm a planeteer. You can be one to.

 

Miami, FL

Not me.. I live in Miami.. I have to drive.. :-)

 

Hackensack NJ

I wish I was driving less The gas is too damn high

 

Enid, OK

Driving less. Gas is $3.689 per gallon!

 

Michigan

Its too expensive and life is too demanding to spend so much time in a car.

 

Murfreesboro TN

Cost and traffic

 

Evans GA

The cost....jobs are scarce or poorly paying and cars, gas, and insurance are expensive.

 

Florida

Because gas is 4$ a gallon. And commuting by car takes a lot of valuable time from you each day, which can be used to do work if commuting by public transportation. Or exercise if you bike or walk to work.

 

Independence KS

Less driving for me means that i don't have to waste as much of my life at underpaying jobs to afford gas, insurance, maintainence, and car payment.

 

Chicopee MA

I find my self driving more and more each year as a small business owner. Yet I still drive to visit friends or vacation in other states

 

Joseph in Lincoln, RI

Gas is more expensive, but have you seen the price of used cars lately? Theyve become way more expensive than they were 10 years ago. Shopping for a new fuel efficient car.

 

John in Enid, OK

Gas prices are prohibitively high, reliable cars are unaffordable, and driving creates an isolated feeling from the community.

 

Abigail from New York

If my kids wanto go somewhere for fun, or to a freind or a ride to school, i will think twice before i jump into the car.

 

Brooklyn, NY

Gas is much too expensive! In Brooklyn it’s $3.89 per gallon!

 

Myrtle Beach, SC

I didn't get my license until I was 19 because I had other options for transportation. I drive as little as possible now because I can't afford the gas. I am 25

 

Detroit, MI

I hate having to drive! We purchased a home near the center of detroit. Everything is less than 10 miles from home. If public transit was better I'd use that! Vehicle ownership and everything that goes along with it is an expense I like to minimize.

 

Brentwood, NY

I am 24 and I drive less because my car is falling apart and gas is way, way too expensive!

 

Leonardtown, MD

Are you kidding? The price of gas

 

Winfield, Kansas

I am 28. Been driving since i was six years old. I drive well over 10,000 miles a month between work and my personal life.

 

Mt. Clemens, MI

I'm with Chevrolet and we are working extensively on this opportunity. We think its a combination of factors inc. there r few cars that truly meet their needs.

 

Massachusetts

I'm 40 but having been driving less for several yrs now. 2 reasons: fuel prices - if I can get there by bike I ride my bike which sometimes means more trips during the wk to the grocery store as I can only carry so much. 2nd reason is health: I need to ride my bike in order to assure myself that I get exercise

 

Eagan, MN

My car has terrible gas mileage

 

San Jose, CA

I drive less because I love to people-watch on public transportation.

 

Chris Timmons

Only driving when I absolutely need to, no more joy rides. Gas and insurance are way too freakin expensive.

 

Boston, MA

Gas is expensive, even w my hybrid. plus we love living locally-walkg in nbrhood seeing folks and stuff.

 

Aiken SC US

At 58, I'm driving less also. Economic, environmental, technological reasons are influences.

 

New York, NY

Too dangerous. Too expensive. Rather live in denser area and not have to deal with constant attention a car needs. rather text on train. ;)

 

Pete from Oklahoma

i drive less because i live close to school, gas costs a lot and i enjoy walking outside- ask me again come August for the summer temperatures in Oklahoma.

 

Troy, MI

I love to drive but hate to pay for gas. I'm not unwilling to drive, I just choose other options when able first.

 

Clinton, MA

We travel a lot less. Also clipping coupons. We just got married and had a private wedding and a three day honeymoon locally. We cancelled our summer vacation plans.

 

Oklahoma City OK US

I sold my car and bought a bike. I haven't bought gas or car insurance in 3 years. That's a big boost to the budget!

 

Richmond VA US

I am 33 and drive an average of 100 m/day for non profits in rural communities near Pittsburgh.

 

Florida

Because I have become a couch potato. The Internet takes me anywhere I want to go. And services like netflix provide entertainment at the touch of a button. Its also a lot more affordable.

 

Buffalo, NY

We have much less income to spend on gas and can't afford to buy a new more fuel efficient vehicle.

 

Milford, MA

Im 27 and I drive 100 miles a day just to and from work. Ananda, Mass

 

Las Vegas NV US

I'm not young-but its obvious to me-price of gas? No?

 

Carlisle, PA

Cost of fuel. Environmentally conscious. Avoiding waste. Saving money.

 

Clinton, MA

Gas is too expensive


 

 

 

 

 

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Comments [5]

sakurymu from New York

Here are the keys to buying a car
1) Buy a cheap car (like honda civic)
2) Buy a car that's easy and cheap to repair (like honda civic)
3) Buy cheap insurance ($30/month full coverage from Insurance Panda)
4) Buy a car that's cheap to fill up at the pump (like civic)

Aug. 28 2014 12:43 AM
crystal hall from kentucky

im disabled and really cant afford a car niether can i drive one cause of my mental and physical problems, i love to walk on foot and take the lextran bus to get to places, its no problem to me. the only downfall is when i walk on the sidewalks, the cars want to aim for you and u get street harassment a hell of alot especially if ure a woman and you dont wear provocative clothing. i wish ppl would take care of the earth more but i guess they'll never learn. choking everyone else up with carbon dioxide and stuff. its not really bad exercise either but the problem is some ppl want to harass u over the stupidest things like cigarettes and stuff. theyre too lazy to get theirselves a job and to just shut up and keep to theirself when theyre passing by someone on the sidewalks.

Apr. 22 2013 08:17 PM
Odile

Fabulous stories, which I will refer to often: thank you!

May. 17 2012 06:02 PM
Robert Leabow

Could the reason that 16 to 34 years did less driving from 2000 to 2010 be the fact that states are putting more restrictions on young drivers (16- to 17-year-olds) that would skew the results some?

We do see other means of travel increase as the price of gas increase and poor economic times.

May. 01 2012 03:28 PM
Dave S.

I'm surprised only one person mentioned carpooling and ridesharing, which collectively helps reduce cars on the road (makes commuting safer and less congested), and reducing costs overall (since some programs pay for gas and [noted for Illinois] tolls).

May. 01 2012 12:25 PM

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