On Friday, we took a look at the cars being created for Millennial drivers, who unfortunately don’t seem to be too interested in buying them. It isn’t just bank account woes holding Millennials back from owning a vehicle; as a generation it seems like they just aren’t as interested in driving. Forty-six percent of Millennial drivers 18-to-24 have said that internet access is more important than owning a car. The concept of needing a car to gain freedom has shifted dramatically for a group who may associate getting their own phone as the moment they gain their independence. Meanwhile, their consistent exposure to media coverage of the dangers of drunk drivers and texting while driving have made getting on the road a much more scary prospect. Nineteen-year-old Youth Advisory Board member Jordan Orris is one of the driving-averse Gen Ys who has not yet gotten her license. Today, she takes us through her personal experience with delaying what was once a right of passage for American teens, and some of the factors Millennials her age are facing when it comes to getting on the road.
A Teen’s Take on the Millennial Driving Drop-off
Beep-Beep! The day I turned 15 1/2, I went to the DMV to get my learner’s permit, which I have consequently renewed three times. Yes, I’ve held my permit for almost four years. A few weeks after I got my permit, my mom and I witnessed a terrible two-car collision that almost cost us our lives. I was afraid to drive for six months or so after that, knowing drivers like the drunk drift car racer were on the road next to me.
As months past—between school and debate, piano, voice lessons, literary magazine and much more—I was too busy to learn to drive. Not to mention the sky-high price of car insurance for a five-minute trip to school. It was easier for my family to just take me in the mornings, and safer as well. It seemed every kid in my grade that had gotten their license at 16 got into an accident in the first six months. One classmate totaled not one, but two brand new cars. The cost and dangers outweighed the benefits of driving for me!
I guess I’m not the only one. In 1998, 64.4 percent of potential drivers (up to 19-years-old) had a driver’s license, whereas in 2008, 46.3 percent possessed the legal ability to drive; according to the Federal Highway Administration. Culturally, teenagers are more interested in smaller economic purchases than a new car. My generation prefers the newest video games and consoles, brand new upgrades on their phone, premier headphones…the point is that teens would rather flaunt their new iPad at school than the keys to a car they’re bound to crash. My high school is in a strong socio-economic area, and in the earlier part of 2000s, had a parking lot known for its Escalades and Audis. Now, there are many more “hand me down” cars than brand new ones, and if students happen to drive a luxury vehicle, it’s an older model.
And of course, I would be remiss not to mention one of the main reasons kids don’t drive as early, or as often as they did in years past: THE SKY-HIGH COST OF GAS!!! So, so, so many of my friends complain about the prices, and yes, the numbers back their woes. In the last five years, there has been a 96 (yes, ninety-six) percent increase in the average price of a gallon of gas. Think about it, in 1998 when 64.4 percent of 16-to-19-year-olds had a license, the U.S. had a great economy and gas prices were much cheaper. It’s certain that the weakened economy and comparably sky-high gas price tags correlate with the dramatic decrease in Millennial drivers.
So now more than ever, it’s critical that car companies understand why Millennials might have road aversion and how to talk to them about it in order to stay relevant with young drivers.
Jordan, 19, is a determined freshman at Auburn University in Alabama, where she is majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies, emphasizing Marketing, Journalism, and Spanish, with a minor in Leadership and Ethics. She hopes to combine her studies with her interests in politics and writing someday, and could see herself working anywhere from Seventeen magazine to The White House. In high school, Jordan was active in Speech and Debate, Class Government, and community service. She founded GVoice, the school’s first online literary publication, which receives hundreds of international hits per day, and continues to be a creative outlet for literary expression at her high school.