A Growing Trend Among Teens Could Mean Fewer Drivers on the Road
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For decades, getting your first driver’s license was a teenage rite of passage. Young drivers loved being able to get around without mom or dad calling the shots.
But data collected from the Federal Highway Administration confirms what many have long suspected, today’s teens and young adults are much less excited about driving.
In 2018, 61% of American 18-year-olds had a driver’s license, down from 80% percent in 1983. In the same period, the number of 16-year-olds with licenses dropped from 46% to 25%.
The trend seems set to continue, with Generation Z even less interested in driving than millennials, but what are the reasons behind this change in attitude? And what are automakers aiming to do about it?
More teens than ever are waiting to get a driver’s license.
Why are young Americans not interested in driving?
First up, driving is less enjoyable than it was several decades ago. Sure, cars are quieter and more comfortable, but our roads are overcrowded and traffic jams worse than ever. As a result, many teens perceive driving as too stressful and intimidating.
Speaking to Insurance Journal, several young people confirmed they would prefer to use a ridesharing app or public transit over driving through a busy city, even if it is less convenient.
Others cited environmental concerns, which is a fair point, and the high costs associated with owning a vehicle as a teenage driver.
Young Americans in general, and Generation Z in particular, have grown up in a digital age. The things that once got youngsters excited about cars no longer apply.
One Boston high school student summed up the feelings of his generation when it comes to finding a first car:
“The only things that I occasionally look into are the advances in the electronics, the really new stuff…For me, it is ultimately going to be about `Do I think this car is pretty? Is it in my price range?…Will it affect the universe?’”
How are automakers responding to this trend?
The auto industry is working to win over these reluctant young drivers, while also keeping older generations of driving enthusiasts happy.
They intend to do this by making cars with newer features, more connectivity, and greener technology, while simultaneously improving performance.
Insurance Journal uses Ford’s iconic muscle car, the Mustang, as an example of how carmakers are trying to adapt.
Ford now offers an electric version of the Mustang called the Mach E, which comes with a huge touchscreen display and cloud-based connectivity.
Ford director Mark Rushbrook tells the publication, “A big screen is what teen drivers want…The vehicle is an extension of their iPhone or their screen device, they want to stay connected and bring their music and everything else with them into the car.”
It remains to be seen if the increasing availability and affordability of electric “smart cars” can win over the younger generations, or if the era of car ownership really is beginning to fade.