Public Transportation vs. Private Horsepower

More and more young Americans are turning down getting a driver’s license. In the 1980s, 80 percent of 18-year old Americans had already gotten their driver’s license; by 2008, that number had fallen to around 65 percent.

I knew it: Sooner or later my lack of a driver’s license would prove fatal. In America, I’m a second class citizen. In New York, a city of pedestrians, I don’t stand out, but as soon as I leave the Big Apple, I’m simply seen as an invalid.

My decision — admittedly made because of laziness and indifference — to do without a license is viewed by many Americans with suspicion. There must be something seriously wrong with me that prevents me from driving my own car. Obviously, I represent some sort of public danger. That, or I come from a super-privileged family where I always had a chauffeur at my disposal. And then there was also the multipurpose interpretation: That’s the way those Europeans are, those snobs who have no appreciation for modern transportation methods.

But for some time now, I have gotten more company. A trend among American young people has become increasingly apparent over the past couple of years. Whereas in the 1980s, 80 percent of 18-year-old Americans had already gotten their driver’s license, by 2008 that number had fallen to around 65 percent. Alarm bells began going off in the U.S. automobile industry. If people don’t get driver’s licenses, they won’t be buying cars. Where will it all end?

A Dying Piece of America

Many young Americans can’t afford a car, gasoline or insurance — or they chose to live in big cities where they can use public transportation while simultaneously protecting the environment. Authors Todd and Victoria Buchholz have another interpretation. They see the unlicensed young as nothing more than a generation of boomerang kids unwilling to get off their behinds and get out on their own, preferring to complain on Facebook about being unemployed rather than pounding the pavement in search of a job.

So long, American spirit of adventure! The authors drily observe that the new indifference to the driver’s license is a mortal threat to one piece of America. There will be no more rebels in America’s future, leaving the old behind and feeling the wind in their hair as they seek out new conquests; no more romantic Thelma and Louise adventures into freedom and independence.

Maybe it really is finally time for me to leave my pedestrian comfort zone and branch out. This summer I’m getting my driver’s license. Then we’ll really see if I’m a threat to the general public.

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