Flickr/State Farm

Economics, attitude shifts, and the lure of the internet are all likely explanations.

The number of America’s youngest drivers just hit a record low, according to newly published data from the Federal Highway Administration. Roughly 8.5 million people ages 19 and younger had their licenses in 2014, and of those, just a little more than one million were 16 and younger—the lowest number since the 1960s.

Nationally, teen driving has been curving downwards for years, as automakers and transit advocates will inform you with respective consternation and glee. Why teens aren’t scrambling to the DMV as they did in decades past is a matter of debate. One explanation is the recession, which hit young people particularly hard. Without jobs (and with parents’ income stagnated), many teens have less disposable cash to fund a driving habit. There may also be an attitude shift the air: Kids today may not place as much value on automobiles as previous generations did, and may be more open to other forms of transportation (including their parents’ backseats, presumably).

(Federal Highway Administration)

The internet shouldn’t be discounted, either. With so many online platforms over which to communicate, teens might not feel the same urgency to meet up in person as once before. "They don't have to drive,” Nancy McGuckin, a travel behavior analyst, told USA Today in 2013. “They socialize online. They shop online. I think we're being blind if we don't accept that the internet is changing travel."

Most likely, all these factors are pushing teens away from driving. One thing’s for sure: The shift is echoed by broader declines in driving that aren’t entirely tied to the financial climate. This varies from city to city, but as Eric Jaffe wrote in 2015, there’s a new national normal when it comes to America’s roads, and it’s time to act accordingly.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Environment

    Visualize the Path of the Eclipse With Live Traffic Data

    On Google Maps, a mass migration in progress.

  2. A city overpass with parked cars and sparse trees
    Civic Life

    How 'Temporary Urbanism' Can Transform Struggling Industrial Towns

    Matchmaking empty spaces with local businesses and the tiny house movement are innovative solutions that can help post-industrial cities across Europe and North America adapt to the future.

  3. A woman sits reading on a rooftop garden, with the dense city of Tokyo surrounding her.
    Solutions

    Designing a Megacity for Mental Health

    A new report assesses how Tokyo’s infrastructure affects residents’ emotional well-being, offering lessons for other cities.

  4. Transportation

    The Diverging Diamond Interchange Is Coming to a Road Near You

    Drivers may be baffled by these newfangled intersections, but they’re safer than traditional four-way stops.

  5. POV

    Grenfell Was No Ordinary Accident

    The catastrophic fire that killed at least 80 in London was the inevitable byproduct of an ideology that vilified the poor.