According to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, America’s age-old love affair with the automobile may be coming to an end; replaced by young adult’s infatuation with the Internet.
The study found a direct correlation between recent increases in Internet usage and lower licensure rates among teens and young adults. And the trend is not unique to the U.S. Researchers from the University’s Transportation Research Institute found increases in the average age of drivers in Germany, Japan, Great Britain, South Korea, Canada, Sweden and Norway.
In a statement, the director of the institute’s human factors group said, “Countries with higher proportions of Internet users were associated with lower licensure rates among young persons, which is consistent with the hypothesis that access to virtual contact through electronic means reduces the need for actual contact among young people.”
In 1983, one third of licensed drivers in the U.S. were under age 30, and young adults in their 20s accounted for approximately 94 percent of all drivers. The percentage of U.S. drivers under age 30 has now fallen to just 22 percent.
IHS Automotive senior analyst Rebecca Lindland says younger Americans are less interested in getting their driver’s licenses, in part because they have become more comfortable with interacting remotely with their friends. Lindland says, “In every other generation, kids had to leave the house to see their friends and now you can do all that online. A car is no longer required.”
Lindland also speculates that young adults’ current interest in cars doesn’t mean that they won’t have an interest in them in the future. She said, “Some of that disinterest obviously will change as these kids grow up, but even then we will see changes in how they want and need and use vehicles.” Regarding the University of Michigan study results, she said, “It’s the first time we’ve seen that and that’s why it’s a little bit alarming.”
Researchers say that the study could have ramifications for a number of industries, including automobile manufacturers and those involved in travel and may also have environmental implications.
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