The number of teen drivers on the road has dropped significantly since 1996, which has caused a lot of speculation as to why. One thought that keeps popping up is that social media has become so integral into the lives of teenagers, that they’d prefer to text, tweet, and Instagram than drive. Looking back to a study from the Sun Times, it was reported that “Virtual contact through electronic means reduces the need for actual contact,” said Michael Sivak, co-author of the study. “My favorite characterization of the social-media explanation is that “driving interferes with texting.’”
Yet a new study suggests it could be the result of higher unemployment rates among teens. Teens may want to drive, but with a lack of jobs available to them, they can’t afford it.
According to a new report from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), the change in the number of drivers age 14 to 19 has dropped 12 percent from 2006 to 2012. However, teen population in this age range has only dropped by 3 percent, pointing to a lack of finances.
“It looks like teens just can’t afford to drive. Paying for their own cars, gas and insurance is hard if they can’t find a job. At the same time, kids who count on Mom and Dad to help them also may be out of luck if their parents have been affected by the recession,” said Matt Moore, vice president of HLDI, in a recent statement.
In comparison, drivers between the ages of 35 and 54 also saw a decrease. The unemployment rate for this group of people rose five percent from 2006 to 2010, while the rate for teen unemployment jumped 11 percent. Both rates leveled out after 2012. Other factors considered by the HLDI was population changes, but as there wasn’t a real dip, the Institute estimates 79 percent of the decline was related to unemployment, while the other 21 percent was attributed to population changes and graduated licensing laws. One positive thing to come out of a lack of teen drivers on the road is the decline of teen crash fatalities, but as the economy makes a comeback, so will the teen drivers.