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For Young Americans, Driving Is Less the Enticing Ticket to Freedom That It Once Was
by Joan Lowy, Associated Press
Driving is becoming so last century.
Since the end of World War II, getting a driver’s license has been a rite of passage for teens, but that’s less and less the case. The share of people in their teens, 20s and 30s with driver’s licenses has dropped significantly over the past three decades, not only the United States, but also in some other wealthy nations with a high proportion of Internet users, transportation researchers have found.
One possible explanation: Virtual contact through the Internet and other electronic means is reducing the need for face-to-face visits among young people, researchers say.
From 1983 to 2008, the share of 16- to 39-year-olds with driver’s licenses declined markedly, with the greatest decreases among drivers in their late teens and early 20s, according to a study at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor. About 69 percent of 17-year-olds had a driver’s license in 1983. By 2008, that had dropped to 50 percent. Among Americans ages 20 to 24 in 1983, nearly 92 percent had driver’s licenses. Twenty-five years later, it was 82 percent.
More recent data from the Federal Highway Administration indicates the trend has continued, according to a report released Thursday by the Frontier Group, an environmental organization, and the consumer-oriented U.S. PIRG Education Fund. The share of 20- to 34-year-olds without a driver’s license decreased from 89.6 percent in 2000 to 84.3 percent in 2010, the report said.