The high price of gas and the ease of electronic communication may be responsible for the drop in the number of teenagers getting driver’s licenses recently. The University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute reports that from 1983 to 2008, the percentage of 16-year-olds who got driver’s licenses fell from 46.2 percent to 31.1 percent, and among 17-year-olds the percentage declined from 68.9 percent to 50 percent. For 18-year-olds, the rate fell from 80.4 percent to 65.4 percent.
Economic factors, along with the rise of cell phones and other devices that reduce the need for face-to-face interaction, may be behind the trend. But the TRI also notes that among the older population, the trend seems to be traveling in reverse: In the same time period, the percentage of drivers in the 60 to 64 age range rose from 83.8 percent to 95.9 percent; among drivers 65 to 69, license holders increased from 79.2 percent to 94 percent; and for adults 70 and older, the percentage increased from 55 percent to 78.4 percent.
Improved health and the need to continue working past the traditional retirement age may be driving the increase.