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Young people aren't lining up to drive like they used to. Year over year, fewer 16 to 24 year-olds are getting driver's licenses according to a new study released today by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute.
Take 16 year-olds: In 2008, 31 percent of them got driver's licenses. In 2010 it fell to 28 percent. That's part of a steady trend the researchers track back to 1983. That's when Return of the Jedi, Scarface and The Outsiders were in theaters, and 46 percent of 16 year-olds were licensed to drive. Now, with Netflix and iTunes, they don't need wheels to get to the movies.
"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."
The U. Mich study found that the driver's license drop was a bit sharper for older teens: the percentage fell five percent for 18 year-olds from 2008 to 2010. Using Census and Federal Highway Administration data, the researchers identified a general decline in the percentage of people who sign up for a driver's license across almost all age groups, but it was especially pronounced for younger would-be drivers.
Study author Michael Sivak explained to Transportation Nation what he thinks is driving the trend:
"We think that there are three main reasons for the reduced percentage of young persons with a driver's license:
- Electronic communication reduces the need for actual contact (and some young people feel that driving interferes with texting)
- Current economic downturn is making it more difficult for young persons to buy and maintain a vehicle
- Young people are moving in increasing numbers to large cities with reasonable public transportation (e.g., New York and San Francisco)"