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U.S. Teenagers Are Driving Much Less: 4 Theories About Why 635

Paul Fernhout writes "U.S. teenagers just aren't as into driving as they used to be, U.S. government forecasters acknowledged in dramatically altered projections for transportation energy use over the next 25 years." Online presence is one of the reasons mentioned, which makes a lot of sense to me as a factor, no matter the age of the drivers involved. Whatever your age, do you drive less than you did 10 years ago?
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U.S. Teenagers Are Driving Much Less: 4 Theories About Why

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  • by TheGavster ( 774657 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @12:43PM (#46005553) Homepage

    At least in CT, the age at which you can practically operate a vehicle on your own keeps creeping up, and there are always new rules restricting the privilege (only during the day, no passengers, etc). Assuming that the rest of the nation passes similar policies (given that we never repeal such things it has to be a purely additive effect anyway), I would think it obvious that teens drive less on average, as teens can't drive as much.

  • by Dzimas ( 547818 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @01:06PM (#46005767)
    In 1970, gasoline cost 35Â/gallon($1.65 in 2011 dollars). The OPEC crisis caused prices to more than double by 1980, but accelerated inflation meant that the cost rose to $2.03 in 2011 dollars. By 1990, gasoline hit $1 ($1.57 in 2011 dollars). Fast forward to today, and the average US price is $3.27. In other words, after adjusting for inflation gasoline is roughly twice as expensive as it has been historically. When you factor in the increased cost of high-tech cars and a sluggish economy, it's not surprising to see reduced demand.
  • by multimediavt ( 965608 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @01:14PM (#46005841)

    Now, this is over 15 years, not 10.

    Sure, let's get that out of the way. I don't have to go out as much to buy things, so I'd say that lowered my annual driving average by about 5%-10%

    Gasoline/Petrol prices
    Absolutely. When the price of gasoline went over $2.50/gal (that was 2005-ish) my leisure driving went to almost none. That was easily 25%-30% of my annual driving.

    More environmentally conscious
    Over the last 15 years I have definitely become more environmentally conscious and tried to drive less as well as use less electricity, etc.

    Moved closer to work
    I live in a medium-sized rural university town (about 50,000 without students, about 80,000 with them). I work for the university and moved to my present location in 1999. Before that I was living about three miles away and would drive to work daily. Now, I have a 15 minute walk apartment door to office door (my office, not the outer door). That cut my driving down by more than a third.

    So my driving habits over the last 15 years have dropped by roughly 65%-75%. I only drive when I need to run errands or I am going to visit friends farther than I can comfortably walk. I might spend $120-$130 on gas in a "busy" month (about 1,000 miles worth), but on average I spend about $60-$65 (about 500 miles worth). I used to average between 2,000 - 3,000 miles per month when gas was under $2.50/gal. I did a lot more road trips for fun and drove back and forth to work (often multiple times a day), as well as shopping trips and other errands. People around where I live have also gotten worse driving habits over that time, so that's another reason I stay off the roads. Where I live half the population of drivers has less than eight years of driving experience, and it seems they never really learned the rules of the road, anyway. Hell, it's bad enough as a pedestrian!

  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @01:30PM (#46005983)

    I put it down to these things:

    1) A few dacades ago, cars had stylish, artful individual appearances. The car you drove was an extension and public declaration of your identity. Cars are now all identical-looking anonymous grey boxes who's shape is determined only by the most optimal windtunnel performance. You mostly can't even tell what brand they are any more without looking at the badge. Consequently cars have become white-good dispoable items like a dishwasher or microwave. Its why classic cars are reaching crazy values now. They are the only cars left with any character. Personally I'd rather pay the extra 0.8 cents a mile in gas lost from aerodynamic inefficiency in order to drive something that doesn't look and feel like an upside-down jelly-mould, but apprently I am in a very small minority.

    2) Way too much ludicrously heavy-handed legislation such as ridiculously low speed limits everywhere in direct response to politicised pressure groups with hidden agendas like MADD, have taken a lot of the pleasure out of driving.

    3) Driving is often unaffordable for younger adults now since drivers have always been seen as a fat and almost infinite source of tax revenue, so the government keep heaping more taxes on road users. Driving is at least triple-taxed compared to anything else. (vehicle 'luxury' tax + gas tax + road licence tax + toll roads + the purpose of low speed limits/traffic tickets/automatic cameras and that most cops are traffic cops rather than the type who actually solve crimes, is all to do with revenue generation rather than anything at all to do with road safety).

    3b) As car insurance is compulsory, car insurance companies are making out like bandits especially from young people. (A very relvant message about obamacare here too somewhere).

    4) Just the large increase in the amount of traffic (mostly commercial) on the road. You are far more likely to encounter heavy traffic especially large slow-moving vehicles wherever you drive now, compared to a few dacades ago. This makes it hardly fun to drive anywhere any more.

  • by JJJJust ( 908929 ) <JJJJust@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Sunday January 19, 2014 @01:30PM (#46005991)

    This. In Michigan, I waited until I was 18 just to avoid dealing with graduated driver licensing laws. The bureaucracy alone they create is a PITA.

    During my time working at the DMV, kids would often bring their fathers in to sign for approving their next level license. At least twice a day I was sending home angry kids because daddy dearest wasn't on the birth certificate.

  • by geoskd ( 321194 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @01:40PM (#46006097)

    Exactly. It's the first 1000 hours that are the most dangerous. That's as true for 40 year olds learning to fly as it is for teenagers learning to drive.

    That only tells part of the story. Actuarially, drivers who do not start driving until age 25 are half as likely to suffer a major accident in their first three years of driving. The number drops even more if they wait until 29. After that it basically levels off.

    The numbers are a bit skewed for other variables like gender and economic status, but age is the biggest factor.

  • Re:Murica Fuck yea! (Score:4, Informative)

    by sandertje ( 1748324 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @02:14PM (#46006351)
    Dutch fuel prices are the most expensive in Europe. Currently, the price is about 1.76 euros per Liter, which translates to $9.02 per gallon. So.. not 6 times as expensive, but sure as hell double than US prices. The reason why we haven't revolted yet: we tend to drive smaller distances (by virtue of being far more densely populated). Plus, there is an extensive public transport system that's in many cases cheaper than taking a car, and more convenient.
  • Re:Porn ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @02:25PM (#46006429)

    My fiance was plenty impressed by my Echo - she won't let me get a new car because the sub-compacts available don't compare.

    That said, there's a simple reason why people are driving less: cost. Fuel is more expensive but more importantly the insurance is crazy for those under 25. $3k/year or more vs $750-1100 for 25+

  • Re:Murica Fuck yea! (Score:5, Informative)

    by sandertje ( 1748324 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @02:28PM (#46006461)
    You ever heard of muscle power? I dunno about you, but my weekly groceries tend to fit in two bags that I can easily carry all by myself. Plus that, if you live within walking distance of a supermarket, it gets convenient to just buy the DAILY groceries on your commute from work.
  • Re:Murica Fuck yea! (Score:5, Informative)

    by westlake ( 615356 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @02:48PM (#46006605)

    There are a ton of historical reasons American cities are built the way they are. First, because almost all of your cities were built long before the existence of cars, American cities were created after the existence of cars.

    Most American cities were built after the invention of the railroad. (ca 1825)

    The move to the suburbs was well established before the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. (1883) Streetcar suburb []

    Before Amazon,com, there was the Sears, Roebuck catalog. "The World's Largest Store." offering convenient and affordable rural and suburban home delivery.

    There are many, many forces which resist centralization in the states.

  • Re:Murica Fuck yea! (Score:3, Informative)

    by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @03:26PM (#46006865) Journal

    the other 3.75X is opportunity cost, namely the cost of flying from europe to america, buying the gas, and trying to get the barrels past airport security.

    bizarrely, here in Canada, one of our airport security guards found a pipe bomb in the carry on bag for a teenager, and the guard initially tried to GIVE IT BACK to the passenger, who insisted that the guard keep it. The guard did, and the teen was permitted to fly that day. Of course, when the teen returned, he was attacked by a SWAT team.

    I guess we hire from the same pool of people that the TSA does.

  • Re:Murica Fuck yea! (Score:5, Informative)

    by PrimaryConsult ( 1546585 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @04:47PM (#46007435)

    The worst part is, many towns build around railroads exorcised their train stations and rail lines. So places which once had a centrally located rail station now have a trail running through downtown, and (at best) a station 10 miles away from town with a parking lot the size of the town. Even worse, the "network effect" of a local bus system bringing people to downtown (which works great with downtown train stations) is lost because the train station is now at a "spoke" of the system, rather than the hub.

    And the above is the best case scenario. At worst, they didn't even bother putting in a replacement station, and the area became completely automobile-ized.

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!