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.