Why young Americans still aren't driving

The U.S. economy is getting better, so why aren't people driving more?
Written by Tyler Falk, Contributor

Since 2005, driving in the United States has been steadily declining.

One theory for the decrease is the Great Recession. But the U.S. economy is growing again, so are people driving more? Doug Short takes a look at the latest data (PDF), on vehicle miles traveled, from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Clearly, driving continues to trend downward -- travel on all roads and streets was -1.4 percent in February 2013 compared to one year earlier. Meanwhile, in 2012, U.S. GDP increased 2.2 percent and is estimated to grow 1.9 percent in 2013. And that's on top of the troubling trend for the automobile industry that driving dropped for people between 16 and 34 years old by 23 percent.

So what's going on? Brad Plumer at the Washington Post gives a few more hypotheses for why young people, and the general American public, are driving less, including: car ownership costs rising (high gas prices, insurance, etc.); states making it difficult to get a driver's license; young people living near transit, in denser communities; and technology lessening the need for a car. So is this a trend we can expect to continue? Plumer says:

Much depends on whether oil and gas prices stay high— this is where discussions of “peak oil” become relevant — and on how quickly the U.S. economy rebounds. But if there has been a genuine cultural shift among younger Americans, then driving may not rebound to the extent it did during the 1990s.

Why aren’t younger Americans driving anymore? [Washington Post]

Photo: Flickr/jgrimm

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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