Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The trouble with young people today

Remember counting down the days to your 16th birthday? Some of us even skipped school to run down to the government office to sweat through the test that would bestow upon us that coveted, sacred rite of passage into adulthood – the driver’s licence. It was a heady symbol of freedom ... autonomy ... and independence.

But these days, that sacred rite could be on the threatened species list.  It’s true. Young people are shunning the driver’s licence for – shudder – a SIM card.

A study by the University of Michigan Research Institute shows a steady decline in the number of licensed drivers in the United States under the age of 30. There has been 22 percent drop in the number of licensed drivers since 1983. Furthermore, that decline is echoed across countries such as Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Norway, South Korea and – yes – Canada.

Used to be, young folks needed a car to go to the mall and hang out with friends. Now all they have to do is visit their Facebook page or text them. You get to meet more people with an iPhone than you do with a Corvette. Sad but true. You may even get to impress some chicks if you have an iPhone 4S with Siri and some waycool apps.

The U of M’s study found that those countries where folks like to spend lots of time surfing the internet, young people had fewer driver’s licences rates. Could that translate into virtual contact being more important than actual contact? That's more than a little bit disturbing.

Maybe it's be the money. It does cost a lot to buy and maintain a car, and the insurance for a 16-year old male driver is stratospheric. There are much more reasonable – and green – alternatives, like car sharing, taking transit, walking or bicycling.

Possibly. But as Advertising Age noted, just as the automobile shaped a generation like the Baby Boomers, the internet seems to be shaping the Millennials. Perhaps they’re just smarter than we are – texting while driving is deadly. There are no WIFI highways.

Perhaps that’s a lesson that Baby Boomers could take to heart. We might live longer.


  1. As the parent of a 19 year old and a 17 year old as well as a teacher of juniors and seniors in high school, I don't agree with the interpretation of these statistics. Car insurance in NJ is not only expensive, a number of insurers either don't write in this state or refuse new drivers unless they are on their parent's policy. Gas is nearly $4 per gallon and at least in the suburbs, nothing is right around the corner. Car pooling, bicycling, walking, and even skateboards are cheaper than owning and maintaining a car especially when jobs for everyone are scarce in this economy.

    My daughter got her license on her 17th birthday (the age you can drive in NJ), has totalled 2 cars and been ticketed for speeding. My son has yet to get his license (even though he qualifies) because he can't afford to maintain a car and I can't afford another teenaged driver on my insurance.

    All of us use the internet extensively; neither my children nor I use it as an alternative to driving. The only way it might be an alternative to driving is we shop more online rather than at the mall :) But I think that's a time saver, not a gas saver!

    1. Interesting observations. I'm sure there are kids out there still chomping at the bit to drive, but for whom the cost is an issue. That's another part of the equation, for sure. Good luck to yourself and your family - and thanks for your input.

  2. I Found tese statics interesting. If that is the case I haven't seen that as a factor in my own family. All of the teens are anxious to acquire the freedom they see the driver's license providing them. It is a way to get away for the house and their parents (with their smart phones) to spend time with local friends at a coffee shop, ie: Starbucks.

    :-), Susan Cooper

  3. I don't have a driving licence. I use the public transit mostly. Other times my husband would take me in his car. My daughter, who is 16, is thinking of writing her licence test. But she is not in a hurry to do that. I don't mind taking the transit to go to the mall. My kid usually goes out with her friends by taking transit. I guess, having a car is not a priority for them.

  4. Gee, I want an iPhone 4S with Siri and I don't even need to impress girls. We're talking about the cost of gas and insurance..... where do these kids get the money to buy an iPhone 4S with Siri?

    Personally, when I was a teenager, I couldn't wait to drive as far away from my parents as possible. I think part of the problem is that kids are just too darn happy at home. I hardly know a high school kid these days who is not best friends with their parents. That was certainly true with my own kid. I was his very best friend. My niece has a terrific relationship with her mother. All of her friends are crazy about their parents. No wonder they are not interested in getting a driver's license. Their "best friend" (aka mom) can just drop them off.

    Maybe that's the answer. We should all be meaner parents. At this rate, they will never leave home! Yikes!!!

    Kay in Hawaii

  5. Agree with you completely. Have lived and worked all over the world but am shocked at how youngsters back home in Sweden are spending Saturday nights at home with friends playing computer games. Even attractive, nice youngsters that should be out and about having fun.

    Read in the paper about a survey done comparing people surfing the internet with the ones surfing on their i-phones and i-pads. Turned out the latter category were very unlikely to help other people - even people in need. Interesting....

    1. That is a shocking discovery!! I often wonder what kind of society we are leaving to the future generation. While there are certainly benefits to fewer teens driving and the often tragic consequences, the alternative is shaping up to have its issues. Hopefully we can come up with a happy medium ...

  6. I remember as a younger person wanting to "go out" and be with friends...anywhere than being at home. Getting that drivers licence meant FREEDOM and through that I could travel, go camping and do all those things that I had read about in books or heard other adults talk about

    Times sure have changed! Now a days kids/young people and even older people live and reside in a virtual world where chatting, texting, gaming is the new reality.

    As parents we supply our youth with the tools to make this all happen, every room a computer or kids having that smart phone starting at a very young age.

    LIke many people, I see the problem, but I have no answers.

    As for texting while driving being sure is, but I can see a time where a person or a team of people are working on this might actually be here already in the form of the Google Driverless car!

    Just a thought, maybe that will be the one way to get kids outside again?

    1. The future has always held more questions than answers. I think the human need for companionship cannot be completely satisfied on a virtual level. Often virtual contact is just the first step in a relationship, or a way to maintain a certain level of communication. I think there may be more to come - at least I hope so!

      As for texting and driving, this is a huge challenge. I like your idea of the driverless car - and it being the solution to seeing more kids get outside!

  7. I completely agree with your article. I find myself always frustrated with my wife and cannot stop talking on her cell phone while driving. I invested in a Bluetooth for her, but to no avail she continues to do it. She is right on the border for a millennial and Gen Y.

    Angel recently posted It’s Not Always Easy Being Married To A Green

    1. Perhaps phones will some day be integrated right into a car's system, and we can talk without the aid of Bluetooth or earsets. Just a thought ...