Elderly driving longer than ever, young starting to drive later than ever?

According to at least one new study, one cornerstone of classic Americana appears to be dying out for our younger generation.

Automobiles have been a staple of American life ever since Henry Ford helped bring the Model T within financial reach of most Americans, eventually leading to a new type of freedom that for many generations was one of the most important and sought after milestones in their life.

But like many things in America as of late, times are changing and it appears the teenagers of today are opting less and less to go out and get their driver license, while the older generation is driving longer than ever, according to a study by the University of Michigan via The Detroit News, citing a myriad of possible reasons.

Stepping back in time just three decades to the 1980s, the study pointed out that 87 percent of 18-year-olds had a driver license, compared to just 75 by 2008. Conversely, in the same time-span the opposite is true of the elderly generation, which has experienced a sharp uptick in the number of drivers over 70 which choose to hold onto their license.

In 1983, for example, just 79 percent of those over age 65 to 69 retained their license, compared to a substantially higher 94 percent retention rate in 2008. The increase is even more dramatic for drivers over 70, with only 55 percent holding a license in 1983, while 78 percent were still on the road post-70 in 2008.

"It is possible that the availability of virtual contact through electronic means reduces the need for actual contact among young people," suggested Michael Sivak, research professor at the University of Michigan, Transportation Research Institute. "Furthermore, some young people feel that driving interferes with texting and other electronic communication."

One hypothesis for the change in fewer young drivers getting behind the wheel is the lack of face-to-face interactions in the technology-heavy generation, with many opting to stay home and communicate online or on their cell phones. As for the elderly, they are making use of better healthcare and staying healthy and active longer, allowing them to enjoy their freedom longer than ever.

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