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Your Take: Are You Driving Less?

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Driving LessWe’ve tossed around the idea of selling your ride and living carless, and many people are finding more efficient ways to get around, but it’s still hard to believe we’re seeing an end of an era.

Driving just isn’t cool anymore.

According to a new report from the John A. Volpe Transportation Systems Center, people are driving less and less in America. This is a trend I’ve picked up recently as I’ve been traveling more. I live in a pretty car-reliant town, so I feel like I have an inflated sense of the ubiquity of cars. They’re everywhere. Everyone at my office drives to work; It’s just the easiest way to get around. But in my recent travels to bigger, more densely-populated urban centers, I’ve noticed many people utilizing a variety of efficient transportation options to get around.

It always seemed odd to me to not have a car, just for various tasks that wouldn’t work on foot/bike, but the more I got around and chatted with people, the more I noticed that some major metropolitan areas are making great strides improving and streamlining their cities to accommodate various forms of transportation. Mass transit in general is just more of an option in bigger cities. I live in south Florida, and we’re no where near that. At all. So I guess I’ve been rather ignorant to all the progress.

But it’s also a generational thing. The study notes that many of the people driving less are young males. Not only that, but the number of people under 30 with driver’s licenses is dropping off dramatically.

Men Driving Less

(Volpe, 2013)

I’ve seen this firsthand with my little brother and his generation: there’s just no rush to go out and get a license. Driving’s just not a priority to them, for whatever reason. When I was that age (ugh, I’m turning into that guy), I couldn’t wait to get my license, be on my own, go where I wanted without having to bother my mom to drop me off somewhere, then pick me up (usually at her discretion). I remember the joy of just being eligible to take the driving class, and get my permit, then waiting a year to take my driving test. It was thrilling. It was a great sense of freedom and responsibility at 15, so it’s kinda strange to me how that excitement has dissipated. Maybe it’s a mixture of things.

Maybe less families can afford the added insurance of a teenage driver, or heck, maybe they just can’t afford the added gas expense or extra wear and tear on their primary vehicle. Teens today can pretty much forget getting their own car. According to Truecar, the average transaction price on a new vehicle last year topped 30 grand, which is insane to me.

Another interesting point brought up in the study is that vehicle miles travelled (VMT) has historically been tied to GDP growth, but even as we recover from our recession, mileage numbers keep on dropping. So it appears as if this is a permanent trend away from cars, and driving.

Driving tied to GDP

(Volpe, 2013)

Although it may seem like I’m all pro-car/driving, I actually think this is a good trend. Cars are terrible assets, horribly inefficient machines, and are extremely expensive to maintain. As much as I do enjoy cruising around in my ride, I look forward to reserving my car for casual, recreational spins, instead of putting all these miles on her (FYI: I bought a new car last year and have already racked up almost twenty thousand miles). Less driving and fewer cars is good for the environment, good for our wallets, and good for us (this is a generalization but I’ve noticed the people who drive less and bike/walk more tend to be more fit, physically and financially).

So how about you? Are you driving less? Could you (or would you) live without a car?

I think it might be a fun challenge to try. Hmmm.

Let us know :)

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9 Responses to “Your Take: Are You Driving Less?”

  1. While I am not driving less, I have noticed some of the same trends with younger drivers. My niece is one of those Gen Y members that doesn’t have a license and doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to get one.

  2. The trend toward less driving and less car ownership is one of the hopeful signs around I think. Young people are smart!

    • Brandon says:

      Kurt,

      I generally agree. But I do feel like owning (or at least driving) a vehicle as a teen taught me something about ownership, responsibility, independence, managing my budget/time. It was almost a rite of passage.

      Mind you, I’m not saying owning/driving a car is the only means of highlighting responsibility, but having to maintain such a huge asset was very demanding and rewarding. I don’t know what kids these days that offers similar feelings/responsibilities.

  3. Another thing that is important to consider is that during the 2001-2009 period where driving declined, the price of gas rose 400%.

  4. Huskervball says:

    My grandchildren (ages 20,18 and 16) all have vehicles. The 18 year old male has a truck and a car for mudding around.

    They don’t seem at all interested in driving less in their rural environment.

  5. Knowledge is like money: the more he gets, the more he craves.

  6. I think it’s a great trend to see and one that I hope that will continue to grow. We drive a lot less now as we run our own business and work out of our house. We go out for client meetings, but try to handle as many of those as we can via Skype which saves us time and money.

  7. jestjack says:

    Had this very discusion with DD2…”an econ major” and she said to compare the price of gas versus the minimum wage. So when I got my license (when dinosaurs roamed the earth)min. wage was like $1.60 and gas was 32 cents/gallon…5 gallons per hour. Now min. wage is $7.25 and gas is $3.60…about 2 gallons per hour. MAN this kid is smart! Simply put with all the costs involved … insurance, fuel, acquisition costs, depreciation, maintenance…I can’t wait until I don’t need a car!

  8. James says:

    Great posting. This could be a mountain out of a mole hill though. The U.S. is becoming increasing urban and urbanites tend to drive less. So it makes sense that if more people live in cities, the driving rate is going to do go down.

    A second point is..I think..generation. Millenials tend to value their cell phone more as a symbol of freedom and autonomy, and less so their car as earlier generations did.


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