Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fewer Teenagers Driving, Especially in My House

Lisa Hymas, via Matt Yglesias:
In 2008, just 31 percent of American 16-year-olds had their driver's licenses, down from 46 percent in 1983. . . . The numbers were down for 18-year-olds too, from 80 percent in 1983 to 65 percent in 2008, and the percentage of twenty- and thirtysomethings with driver's licenses fell as well.
I have observed this in my own house and neighborhood; of the seven 16- to 19-year-olds regularly in my house, only one has a driver's license, and he comes from a highly automotive, classic-car-collecting family. My 18-year-old son is making slow progress toward his license, but my 17-year-old daughter has given up. Despite observing this trend at close quarters, I don't really understand it. We live at the back end of a suburb, up against a state park, and the closest stores are about a mile and a half away (2.5 km). To get places on their own these kids walk 5 or even 7 miles some nights (8 to 11.5 km). I drive them sometimes, but not every day or even every week. They never use public transportation, which wouldn't help them much anyway, since the closest bus stops are by those same stores, and the buses from there run toward downtown Baltimore rather than toward anywhere they want to go.

I guess the Internet and the XBox are part of it; they can chat with their friends and even play games together without leaving their bedrooms. Money is another; cars cost more than they did when I was 16, and you need a much higher level of knowledge to work on one yourself, so fewer kids can buy a $200 car and keep it running until they can afford a better one. I suppose some parents probably keep driving their kids all over after they turn 16.

But I still wonder why more kids don't crave the freedom that I got from driving.

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