ANN ARBOR – (WWJ) A new University of Michigan study says many young people prefer surfing the web to driving a car.
The study, published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention looked at 15 countries, including the United States, and found that nations with a higher proportion of Internet users, had lower licensure rates of young persons.
INTERVIEW: Jeff Gilbert talks with Bill Visnic of Edmunds.com about why today’s teens are less interested in cars.
In 1983, early 94 percent of twenty-something Americans had their driver’s licenses. Today, the number is closer to 84 percent.
“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,” said Michael Sivak, a research professor at the University’s Transportation Research Institute.
“There are a combination of socioeconomic things going on, all over the globe, not just here, that have sort of taken the car away as that ultimate object of desire for young people,” said Bill Visnic, an analyst with Edmunds.com.
Teenagers of earlier eras were anxious to get their licenses, Visnic says, so they could hang out with their friends.
“You don’t physically need to be there to visit with your friends anymore, like you used to before we had cell phones and Internet communications and Skype and everything else.”
This trend has sent car companies scrambling to develop vehicles that appear to young drivers. It’s lead to a number of funky looking small cars, and a lot of vehicles with the connectivity that young people appear to be very interested in.
But, Visnic says no car company has yet found a magic combination that’s created a vehicle that’s become a major hit among young people.
“There’s going to have to be a lot of repositioning of what a car means to a young person, and what a car means to their life.”
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