Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, February 25, 2021

You’d think the prospect of cruising down the road without parental supervision would be incentive enough for America’s teenagers to want to get their drivers’ licenses as soon as possible. I know it was when I was coming of age.

Alas, today’s adolescents are a different breed, content to be chauffeured practically until the brink of adulthood:

The national rate of licensed 16-year-olds dropped to 29.8 percent in 2006 from 43.8 percent in 1998, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

The falling rate of teenage drivers is perplexing to Michael T. Marsden, an expert on car culture and dean of St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis.

“It’s a big change in a major American ritual of driving as early as possible,” Mr. Marsden said.

What would be the longer term implications? Does this suggest that youngsters are not as car-obsessed as prior generations, and therefore might not be as receptive to the frequent new-car pitches from the auto industry? If so, carmakers might want to start revising their marketing strategies now, to counter a more challenging consumer market a few years from now?

Then again, it’s not like the majority of these deferring drivers can avoid getting behind the wheel indefinitely. They’re going to move out of their helicopter-parent cocoons sooner or later, and outside of New York and a couple of other concentrated urban cores, they’re going to need to drive to survive. So maybe the true longer-term impact will be… Even lousier drivers on the road, given that they’ll have had less experience?

I’m glad I don’t need to drive daily anymore. I’ll keep my Rollerblades nearby just in case.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/25/2008 11:18:49 PM
Category: Society
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