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Opening Arguments

Don't do something; just stand there

Young people not eager to get their licenses and start driving? It's practically un-American:

Young Americans are eschewing cars for alternative transport, leaving carmakers to wonder if this is a recession-induced trend or a permanent shift in habits.

For generations of American teenagers, the car was the paramount symbol of independence. But in the age of Facebook and iPhones, young adults are getting fewer drivers’ licences, driving less frequently and moving to cities where cars are more luxury than necessity.

Figures from the Federal Highway Administration show the share of 14 to 34-year-olds without a driver’s licence rose to 26 per cent in 2010, from 21 per cent a decade earlier, according to a study by the Frontier Group and the US PIRG Education Fund released this month. (Some US states allow 14-year-olds to get a learner’s permit to drive.) Another study from the University of Michigan showed that people under 30 accounted for 22 per cent of all licensed drivers, down from a third in 1983, with the steepest declines among teenagers.

At the same time, cycling, walking and public transport use rose among 16 to 34-year-olds from 2001 to 2009, the Frontier study said.

Here's the part that really struck me:  "With the rise of social media, people don’t do a lot of face-to-face getting together, so they don’t need cars as much,” Mr Anwyl said." I suppose it should have been a strong clue that teens much prefer texting to even the minimal human contact of talking on the phone. Hey, want me to visit you? Move to a bus route, OK?

I've thought a lot about the positive aspects of how the communications revolution is reducing the need for travel. If I can talk to my brother in Texas several times a week, and actually see his ugly mug while I'm talking to him, it matters less that we get together only once a year. The more I can order online, the less time I have to spend going from store to store and the more time I can devote to more meaningful pursuits.

But there's a cost. We've already started letting technology isolate us in our own little cocoons, and it's only going to get worse.

Those poor kids. How many great car memories do most of us have? "Hey, remember that trip we took to Mexico that one summer?" "Remember when we cog lost in the middle of Ohio?" "God, what a weekend we had in Vegas!" What memories will this generation have to share? "Hey, remember those aweseome tweets back in '12?


Harl Delos
Thu, 04/19/2012 - 11:40am

My prediction: subways, els, busses, and people-movers will remain marginalized until the start coming with back seats.