Fewer teens bother to get drivers' licenses, study shows
DETROIT -- As some automakers seek ways to better market to young consumers, a recent study may make them think twice about the investment.
Young drivers' ambivalence toward cars and driving has raised concerns among automakers in recent years as U.S. light-vehicle sales recover from the recent historic low of 10.4 million units in 2009. A recent AlixPartners study referred to young, reluctant drivers as Generation N, as in "neutral about driving."
A University of Michigan study released today found that only six in 10 Americans ages 17-19 have drivers' licenses.
Thirty years ago, that number was eight in 10.
Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, researchers at the university's Transportation Research Institute, found that the rate of decline has increased significantly in recent years:
In 1983, 87 percent of 19-year-olds, 80 percent of 18-year-olds and 69 percent of 17-year-olds owned drivers' licenses.
In 2008, the numbers fell to 75 percent of 19-year-olds, 65 percent of 18-year-olds and 50 percent of 17-year-olds.
Now, in the study's latest results from 2010, the numbers have declined even further. Only 70 percent of 19-year-olds, 61 percent of 18-year-olds and 46 percent of 17-year-olds had licenses.
Although the findings show a significant decline in licensing among teenagers, Sivak said the share of licensed drivers has fallen in most age groups because of the increasing popularity of the Internet.
"Virtual contact, through electronic means, reduces the need for actual contact," Sivak said.
An exception to the national trend is Americans ages 25-29 and over 70, of which a slightly increasing share were licensed drivers in 2010.
PRESS RELEASE: Percentage of teen drivers continues to drop
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Thirty years ago, eight in 10 Americans ages 17-19 had a driver's license. Today, it's six in 10, say University of Michigan researchers.
In a follow-up to their previous studies examining the percentage of young persons with driver's licenses, Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the U-M Transportation Research Institute say the trend has accelerated.
In 1983, about 87 percent of 19-year-olds, 80 percent of 18-year-olds and 69 percent of 17-year-olds owned a driver's license. Twenty-five years later in 2008, the percentages were 75, 65 and 50, respectively.
New data presented by Sivak and Schoettle shows that in 2010, those numbers have plummeted even more: about 70 percent of 19-year-olds, 61 percent of 18-year-olds and 46 percent of 17-year-olds had a driver's license.
In their research update appearing in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention, Sivak and Schoettle extend their analysis by using driver's license records and general population data from the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau.
While their findings show that the reduction in the percentage of teen drivers with a license continued in 2010, they also reveal a decline in the number of driver's licenses for people of most age groups—except for slight increases for those 25-29 and those over 70.
"Overall, the observed decrease in driver licensing is consistent with the continued increase in Internet usage," Sivak said. "In our previous research, we found that the percentage of young drivers was inversely related to the proportion of Internet users. Virtual contact, through electronic means, reduces the need for actual contact."
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