Kids today don’t get excited about driving. I can speak from personal experience here. I’ve had two teenagers clock into their sixteenth year, and neither of them has been chomping at the bit to get behind the wheel. My younger daughter greets her dentist with more enthusiasm than she does her driving instructor. This apathy was a complete surprise to me and my husband. What kind of self-respecting sixteen year old doesn’t embrace the freedom and cool-factor that comes with getting her license to drive a car? What had we done wrong??
It turns out that it’s not just my kids. I learned this from Gabe Zichermann, the author of The Gamification Revolution, who gave a fascinating keynote speech at the BCAMA Vision Conference last month. Young people today are just not jazzed about driving. According to a report by U.S. PIRG, the average young person (age 16-34) drove 23 percent fewer miles in 2009 than the average young person in 2001. The report also notes that a growing number of young Americans do not have driver’s licenses; from 2000 to 2010, the share of 14 to 34-year-olds without a license increased from 21 percent to 26 percent. According to the report, between 2001 and 2009, the annual number of miles traveled by 16 to 34 year olds on public transit such as trains and buses increased by 40 percent.
The big question is why? And what does this say about millennials as consumers?
The Car Is Not As Fun As The Smartphone
Driving demands 100% concentration on one single thing: driving. Young people today are multi-taskers who are used to tuning into multiple screens, social feeds, games, music and friends all at once. In comparison, driving is boring, and lacks the constant positive reinforcement social media and gaming provide. So it turns out kids are taking the “don’t text and drive” message to heart. It’s just that they are choosing to text, rather than drive.
Public Transportation Sets You Free
Kids on the bus are not only making the environmentally-friendly choice for their transportation, they are also making the smartphone-friendly choice. On the bus, you can text, tweet, message, creep, listen to music and play games to your heart’s content. Meanwhile, the bus driver can watch the road.
You Don’t Need to Drive to be Social
It used to be that if you wanted social interaction with your friends, you had to be physically in their presence, especially if you lived in a household with (gasp!) only one phone line. Today you can hang out with your friends online, negating the need to go out at all. The same goes with shopping, game playing, and many other things we used to do only in person. The online world reduces our need to get behind the wheel and go.
The Sharing Culture
Millennials have grown up in a sharing culture. They share their lives online through social media — pictures, opinions, successes, relationships, etc. Look a the top or bottom of almost any web page or blog post, and you will find right there the “sharing” buttons. So it stands to reason these consumers would share their ride, too, by opting for public transit. The rise of the car co-op is part of this trend, too. Why own a whole car that you don’t actually want to drive, when you can just share one?
It will be fascinating to watch how the car companies address this challenge moving forward. The good news is there’s always a car in my garage when I need one. The kids took the bus!