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Teens choosing information highway over Pacific Coast Highway

August 23, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
  • Students in this driver training class in Tucker, Ga., are bucking a trend. A smaller percentage of teens are getting their driver's licenses, according to the University of Michigan.
Students in this driver training class in Tucker, Ga., are bucking a trend.… (Jason Getz )

Should the auto industry be worried about the Internet?

It seems that the more time young people stay digitally connected, the less time they feel they need to be together physically, and that results in less interest in driving, according to researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

“We found that the percentage of young drivers was inversely related to the proportion of Internet users. Virtual contact, through electronic means, reduces the need for actual contact," said Michael Sivak, a professor at the institute.

Back in 1983, 69% of 17-year-olds had a driver’s license. Just 46% of that age group had a license in 2010.  Driver’s license rates for 18- and 19-year-olds also have plunged during the same time period.

A smaller percentage of teen drivers could slow auto sales growth.

The licensing rate reduction persists all the way through people in their 30s, Sivak said, "Consequently, there are fewer potential buyers of vehicles in a major segment of the buying population."

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