Study Sheds Interesting Light on Teenage Drivers

Wall Street Journal

A new study by the High­way Loss Data Insti­tute explains why teenagers seem to be dri­ving less. Is it a long term cul­tur­al trend or are there oth­er fac­tors?

Find out the real rea­sons there are less teenage dri­vers on the roads today.

Are teens real­ly done car­ing about cars and dri­ving, or is data show­ing few­er teens apply­ing for dri­vers’ licens­es more a reflec­tion of the lousy cur­rent job mar­ket than a long term cul­tur­al trend?

If you’re a car mak­er – or an advo­cate for reduc­ing the amount of pub­lic mon­ey spent on high­ways ver­sus mass tran­sit – this is a cru­cial ques­tion. Now comes a new study that con­cludes that the drop in teen dri­ving may be most­ly due to the job mar­ket.

The High­way Loss Data Insti­tute, a non-prof­it research orga­ni­za­tion fund­ed by the auto insur­ance indus­try, looked at insur­ance data for the num­ber of cov­ered dri­vers age 14 to 19. From 2006 to 2012, the num­ber of cov­ered dri­vers in that age group fell by 12%, the HLDI says in a study released on Thurs­day. Dur­ing that same peri­od, the pop­u­la­tion of teenagers in that age brack­et declined by 3%.

Those find­ings mir­ror work done by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol, which found that the pro­por­tion of high school seniors with a driver’s license fell to 73% in 2012 from 85% in 1996.

Then, HLDI looked at unem­ploy­ment rates for teens com­pared to adults in the 35–54 year old brack­et. Teen unem­ploy­ment rose by 11 per­cent­age points dur­ing the 2006–2012 peri­od – coin­cid­ing with the finan­cial cri­sis and the Great Reces­sion. For adults, unem­ploy­ment rose 5 per­cent­age points.

“Looked at togeth­er, there was an inverse rela­tion­ship between the grow­ing unem­ploy­ment spread and the falling ratio of teen dri­vers to prime-age dri­vers,” the HLDI researchers con­clude. The HLDI con­cludes that 79% of the drop in the ratio of teenagers with driver’s licens­es to 35–54 year old adults with licens­es is relat­ed to unem­ploy­ment.

“It looks like teens just can’t afford to dri­ve,” HLDI vice pres­i­dent Matt Moore says in a state­ment, putting the issue in terms non-sta­tis­ti­cians can grasp. The HLDI study includes a chart that makes the point even more suc­cinct­ly.

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