Saturday, August 20, 2011

Driving less?...  

Well, somebody is. For whatever reason we are keeping our cars parked slightly more.


Theories abound, such as this one:
There’s also a theory floating around that Americans—especially young Americans—are simply no longer as car crazy as they were in the 1970s. In 1976, three-quarters of all 17-year-olds had drivers’ licenses. By 2008, that was down to 49 percent. Last year, Zipcar, the car-sharing company, did a survey that found that 67 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds would prefer to drive less, especially if alternatives were available. (Mind you, Zipcar is hardly a disinterested party here, but other surveys have yielded similar results.)
What could explain this cultural shift? Maybe more young people are worried about the price of gas or the environment. But—and this is just a theory—technology could play a role, too. Once upon a time, newly licensed teens would pile all their friends into their new car and drive around aimlessly. For young suburban Americans, it was practically a rite of passage. Nowadays, however, teens can socialize via Facebook or texting instead—in the Zipcar survey, more than half of all young adults said they’d rather chat online than drive to meet their friends.
But that’s all just speculation at this point. As Bernstein says, it’s still unclear whether the decline in driving is a structural change or just a cyclical shift that will disappear once (if) the U.S. economy starts growing again. [More]
'Tis a puzzlement, to be sure. I don't know enough about teenagers today to jump aboard that idea, but it may be.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?


Bill Harshaw said...

Americans are no longer as car crazy as they were in the 1970's because Americans are no longer as young as we were in the 1970's. We're getting older as a nation and old folks drive less.

Jake in OH said...

Sorry, but the simple fact is that gasoline is in the $3.50 to $4.00 range and most "normal" people can not sustain driving levels they previously enjoyed.

I use a pay at the pump credit card and pay off my card each month. As recent as 4 or 5 years ago gasoline made up about 25% of my monthly it is over half.

Eliminating far-away vacations, evening drives with the family to see the crops, and carpooling the kids to extracurriculars have been a necessary way to reduce our budgets.

I don't think anyone should put too much thought into this one. It is simple economics.

John Phipps said...


Look at the graph time line. We have had expensive gas before without this kind of break - like the '70s, as I recall.

John Phipps said...


My bad - I couldn't read the tiny numbers and thought it started at 1966.

John Phipps said...


A little searching proves you more correct. The author has demonstrated the link between income and unemployment here.