Smartphones Beat Cars in U.S. Teens’ Preferences

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30 years ago, nearly half of 16-year-olds had a driver’s license, which they viewed as a passport to independence. By 2010 that figure had dropped to only 28 percent, according to research from the University of Michigan.

The trend is similar for older teens. In 1983, 69 percent of 17-year-olds had licenses, compared with 46 percent in 2010. The percentage declined for 18-year-olds as well - from 80 percent in 1983 to 61 percent in 2010.

A reason for this decline is technology, which keeps teens connected to one another without the need to get into a car. All teenagers’ traditional interests – music, movies, clothes, books – are immediately at reach via a computer or smartphone.

Another reason is that getting a driver’s license has become a lot tougher. In California for instance, teenagers under 18 are required to spend 50 hours behind the wheel with an adult older than 25 before taking the driver’s test. Passing the test doesn’t end restrictions, though: licensed drivers under 18 years of age can’t drive their friends around unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. They also can’t drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

All these factors have a negative impact on car sales. According to a study from CNW Research, drivers from 15 to 20 accounted for 3.4 percent of new-car sales in 1985 (about 500,000 vehicles). In 2012, their share dropped to 2 percent (300,000 vehicles).

(story from Carscoops)

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