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Study finds young web-connected adults less interested in driving

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When young adults in the 21st century go on a “Surfin’ Safari” they’re less likely to do it in a “Little Deuce Coupe,” says a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan.

Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the university’s Transportation Research Institute found that an increase in internet use among younger age groups was associated with lower driver’s licensure rates.

Since 1983, the percentage of licensed drivers in the United States under age 30 has dropped from 33 percent to 22 percent, while the percentage of people in their 20s who have a driver’s license has gone from 94 percent in 1983 to 84 percent in 2008, according to the study published in the Traffic Injury Prevention journal.

The researchers found a similar situation in a number of other countries, including Canada, Great Britain, Japan and Germany.

Sivak says that “countries with higher proportions of Internet users were associated with lower licensure rates among young persons, which is consistent with the hypothesis that access to virtual contact through electronic means reduces the need for actual contact among young people."

The results of the study echo findings in several others along with anecdotal evidence that indicates that an increase in use of social media, as well as a stagnant economy and more stringent and expensive licensing procedures is leading to a declining interest in automobile usage among teenagers and young adults.

Even in countries that saw an increase in the rate of young drivers, including Spain, Israel and Finland, it was smaller than the growth among other age groups, the study found.