The editorial cites texting and the internet, and the desire for public transportation. But is the bicycle a key component as well?
by Lisa Hymas — Amidst all the hand-wringing over distracted driving, a critical point is getting lost. The problem isn’t the texting — it’s the driving. Clive Thompson made this argument in Wired last year. Thompson cites Rich Ling, an American sociologist and expert on the culture of texting, who has moved with his family to Copenhagen. “[Ling] told me that Denmark has so many buses and streetcars that teenagers often don’t bother getting their driver’s license until later in life. ‘My daughter is 18, and she’s only sort of starting to think about driving,’ he says.”
But even though the U.S. lags way behind other developed countries on public transit, American teenagers are increasingly losing interest in driving too. Long gone are the days when a car symbolized ultimate freedom and cruising Main St. was a preferred teen pastime.
In 2008, just 31 percent of American 16-year-olds had their driver’s licenses, down from 46 percent in 1983, according to a new study in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention. The numbers were down for 18-year-olds too, from 80 percent in 1983 to 65 percent in 2008, and the percentage of twenty- and thirtysomethings with driver’s licenses fell as well. And even those with driver’s licenses are trying to drive less; a new survey by car-sharing company Zipcar found that more than half of drivers under the age of 44 are making efforts to reduce the time they spend packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes.
The decline in driving by younger Americans is fed by many factors: the high cost of gas and insurance at a time of economic insecurity; tighter restrictions on teen drivers in many states; and roads that are more congested than ever, making driving less fun than ever. [Read the full article …]