Turns out that today’s teenagers are more interested in being connected than tooling around in the most iconic US symbol of individuality: the automobile.
Nick Bilton via NY Times
In a survey to be published later this year, Gartner found that 46 percent of people 18 to 24 would choose access to the Internet over access to their own car. Only 15 percent of the baby boom generation would say that, the survey found. “The iPhone is the Ford Mustang of today,” Mr. Koslowski said.
The teenager’s waning enthusiasm for driving predates smartphones. Statistics released by the Transportation Department note that in 1978, 50 percent of 16-year-olds in the United States obtained their first driver’s license. In 2008, only 30 percent did.
Those who get a license now drive less, too. The Transportation Department says 21-to-30-year-olds now drive 8 percent fewer miles than they did in 1995.
Ms. Connelly of Ford has an interesting explanation for the behavioral shift. Driving a car limits the valuable time teenagers could use to text-message with their friends or update their social networks, she said. Although public transportation or waiting for a ride from the parents is slower, it gives a teenager more time to engage with friends on a mobile phone.
There are a number of other trends involved here that Gartner might not track, since they obsess over information technology and gadgets, and less looking at the big picture:
- The world is rapidly urbanizing, and as cities grow the per capita use of cars decreases.
- Kids today are less likely to have jobs, due to the contraction of the economy, and jobs are one of the reason kids need to drive. And jobs are needed in many cases to pay for the expense of having or using a car.
- Teenagers may be more conscious of the environmental impacts of cars, and as a result may be less interested in using them.
- Because of the rise of texting and the social web, kids can remain connected with friends outside of school without having to go to the mall or go to a friend’s house to hang out.
- With higher numbers of single parent households and both parents at work in two parent households, kids this age are relatively unsupervised in after school hours, and have less need for the freedom that cars afforded in the ’70s. They can do almost anything they want.
- Costs of driving have risen, especially the increase in insurance for teenagers. [h/t @bonstewart]
It would be interesting to see the demographics of these numbers, but I can predict with high confidence that the more urban a kid is the less likely they are to get a drivers license at 16.