Posts tagged ‘Safety’

Young people choosing not to drive

It used to be that teenagers couldn’t wait to get their driver’s licenses and hit the road. But data from the Department of Transportation shows a trend that has shifted dramatically over the last 15 years.

A recent article in Ad Age, Is Digital Revolution Driving Decline in U.S. Car Culture?, discusses the decline.

In 1978, nearly half of 16-year-olds and three-quarters of 17-year-olds in the U.S. had their driver’s licenses, according to Department of Transportation data. By 2008, the most recent year data was available, only 31% of 16-year-olds and 49% of 17-year-olds had licenses, with the decline accelerating rapidly since 1998.

The article suggests several reasons for the downturn. The primary assertion is that the proliferation of wireless and mobile devices makes younger drivers more inclined to use public transportation rather than drive themselves. Additional factors include the increases in the minimum age for first-time licenses and graduated licensing programs, which place limits on teens driving alone and often the hours within which they can drive. Finally, the cost of buying a car and paying insurance premiums is too costly for many young drivers.

Washington State passed a law in 2001 that created an Intermediate Drivers’ License for 16-18 year olds and limited late night driving. The law was amended in 2010 to forbid teenagers with drivers’ instructions permits and intermediate drivers’ licenses from using wireless communications devices while operating a moving motor vehicle. With new and stricter laws to prevent distracted driving popping up everywhere those who want to text, talk, or work on their computers while commuting may choose to take the bus or train.

As the Streets Blog points out in their post on the Ad Age article, Younger People Driving Less, Auto Industry Getting Nervous, both the auto and insurance industries are concerned by the trends, as it means less business from the younger cohort of the population. It’s also interesting to think about what this trend means for the WTP 2030. If fewer young people are driving, that would take cars off the roads – but would also put more strain on our public transportation systems, in addition to an increased demand for wireless access on public transportation.

What do you think a decrease in younger drivers would mean for the roads and transit systems? Do you see this as a positive shift for commuters as a whole?

July 1, 2010 at 4:01 pm 5 comments


Welcome to the WTP Blog 2030

The Washington Transportation Plan (WTP 2030) is issued by the State Transportation Commission and serves as the state’s comprehensive and balanced transportation plan. The WTP establishes a 20-year vision for the development of the statewide transportation system, from state highways and ferries to sidewalks and bike paths, county roads, city streets, public transit, air and rail. The Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) provides a public forum for transportation policy development and has specifically established this blog to engage the general public and all other key stakeholders in a dialogue about statewide transportation priorities. The Commission encourages the sharing and discussing of information about the content and development of the WTP 2030. This is not a WSDOT blog; no comments on specific projects or traffic will be posted.

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