Fewer kids are getting their driver’s license

There are all sorts of trends out there that affect the auto industry, like how the Toyota Prius has changed how we think about hybrids and fuel efficient cars. But this one seems incredibly significant – fewer kids are getting their driver’s license these days. 30.5% of American 19-year-olds in 2010 did not have a driver’s license, which is the highest percentage ever, and a sharp increase from the 24.5% in 2008 and only 12.7% in 1983.

What’s causing this? It all has to do with the Internet, phones and social media. Today, kids don’t need a car to socialize with their friends. They can text like crazy, play games on headsets while they chat with their friends, look for a poker game by searching an online poker guide, post wild photos on Facebook or arrange a meetup through Twitter. Sure, cars are still great, but they are no longer essential for the social experience we all crave at that age.

The implications of this are huge for automakers and car insurance companies. Car companies love younger buyers, but now they’ll have to adjust their thinking a bit. Also, will insurance companies treat a new driver who is 18 the same way they would treat a 16-year-old?

It will be interesting how this affects car safety. The roads have never been safer and this might be a good trend in that area. At least some patents are breathing easier, though this also means they’ll be shlepping around their kids for a little longer.

This might also explain why the car companies are racing to add gadgets and features to cars to make them more attractive to the new social generation.

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