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Are Empty Streets Around the Corner?

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Lately, I have been reading and hearing reports that could cause us all to question what we are doing.

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Perhaps news has been slow as of late (I really doubt that), but there
seems to be a ground swell of alarm emanating from my peers in the
media that kids aren’t interested in driving anymore.

One columnist wrote that the dwindling love affair with the auto will have a significant impact on car sales.

While this group of kids are commonly referred to as Generation Y, they also go by names like the Millennial Generation, Millennials, Generation Next, the Net Generation and Echo Boomers. They are said to represent 70 million people, from teenagers to twenty-somethings.

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According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), back in 1978, 75% of 17-year-olds had their driver’s license compared to just 49% in 2008.

And, the DOT states that this declining trend continues for 18- and 19-year-olds, too.  

So what’s going on? Did this country build a bunch of mass transit
systems in the past couple of decades? Are guys taking the bus when
they go out with a girl? Or are kids locked in their rooms playing Xbox
and writing on each other’s wall (that’s a Facebook term)?

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I think the issue lies with the fact that it is expensive to be a driver these days.

Gasoline and service/repairs aren’t cheap, and then when you factor in
the cost of insurance, you’re talking some serious expenses added to
the budget. Trust me, I’m living it every day.

Both my Gen Y children, a son and daughter, received their temporary
driver’s license on the very first day they were legally eligible at 15
1/2-years-old.

They now have lots of opinions about how I drive and what I should
drive. My son’s (he has his temps and turns 16 in August) drivers ed
class is full of pimply-faced kids.

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They all know who has their license, when the others will turn 16 and
whose parents won’t let them get a license. My brief and limited
research study tells me the kids want to drive, but the parents are the
problem.

Getting a driver’s license is still a right of passage, which is fueled
by the need for independence, but also the passion for cool, fun and
interesting cars and trucks.

I tip my hat to the Kia Soul and Forte, the new Ford Focus, Camaro,
Mustang and Challenger, and the technology that kids relate to like
Synch, Bluetooth, GPS, OnStar, iPod ports and hard drives in the sound
system.

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I’d say the same interest and passion to drive that you and I had
when we were 16 is still out there, so don’t believe everything you
read and hear. 

Jeff Stankard is vice president of Babcox and publisher of its Tech Group publications.

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