Do Texting, Tweeting Lead to Less Travel Among Teens?

October 8, 2012
When ITS-UCLA Director Brian Taylor’s oldest daughter left home for college at age 18 she left behind a 2002 Honda that her grandparents had given her when she turned 16.
Her Honda sits forlornly, its battery long dead, because she never bothered to get her driver’s license, her father told ITS students and faculty at last week’s Friday seminar.
Her disinterest in driving left Taylor scratching his head. When he was growing up in southern California every kid yearned for the day he or she turned 15-1/2 and could climb behind the wheel armed with a learner’s permit.
He wondered if the age of personal electronic communication devices had robbed young people of their desire to drive. Moreover, if that were true, what would it portend for their travel choices as they become adults?
With a grant from UCTC, he and fellow faculty and students began analyzing and modeling data in order to compare travel behavior of teens and young adults between the ages of 15 and 26.
He and his colleagues concentrated on four measures of travel: personal miles traveled, number of daily trips, journey-to-work (or commute) mode choice, and travel mode used for social trips.
What he found was stricter driver’s licensing requirements for teens, more young adults returning home to live with parents, and the booming increase in mobile phone and web access were only mildly responsible for the downturn in driving.
Instead, that downturn appeared to be more closely linked to the country’s economic downturn.
“Employment status, household income, and other measures of economic status strongly influence all forms of youth and adult travel behavior, and these factors generally have an even greater influence on the travel of youth than adults,” he wrote. With youth unemployment near 20 percent, the loss of jobs and income has greatly curtailed teen and young adult travel in the late 2000s.

For Taylor’s analysis, read the full report