The Driving Force Of Demographics

An unnamed writer at The Economist suggests that demographic change in the U.S. is bringing with it less love for cars, leding with a Portland-area high schooler.

Yet her family still nags her to get her driver’s licence. “[It’s] seen as this ticket to independence. It’s so glorified,” she says. Ms Crandall admits her life would be easier if she had access to a car—she would spend less time on buses, and could drive to the coast with her friends. But she hates the idea that she should have to. “Why in our society is our identity so tied to car use?” she asks. “If I choose to comply and get my driver’s licence it would be like giving in.”

When I was younger, I tried twice to learn how to drive; one attempt with each parent. It was a miserable experience, and I was miserable at it. It wasn’t until decades later that I understood my incapacity as a driver had its roots in my being autistic (although not all autistics have trouble driving). For me, it wasn’t a political or cultural issue, but one of an inability to process all the physical and mental tasks required to make it work without killing someone, or yourself.

(This makes sense if you’ve seen me talking about my difficulties with task-switching. There’s a lot of multitasking required to drive, and multitasking as such doesn’t exist: it’s seemingly just rapid task-switching. See also my suggestion of the autistic local cache.)

That said, I’ve never really had the interest or motivation, either. We attempted to learn me how to drive because it was what you did, and about the time when you did it. It didn’t work, and everyone moved on, although I assume with at least some annoyance that it meant I wasn’t transportationally self-sufficient.

The Economist again:

The Supreme Court said in 1977 that having a car was a “virtual necessity” for anyone living in America. By 1997, 43% of the country’s 16-year-olds had driving licences. But in 2020, the most recent year for which figures are available, the number had fallen to just 25%. Nor is it just teenagers. One in five Americans aged between 20 and 24 does not have a licence, up from just one in 12 in 1983. The proportion of people with licences has fallen for every age group under 40, and on the latest data, is still falling.

Cars used to be a symbol of independence, but if you have a walkable, transit-friendly city you’ve almost all the independence you need. I’d imagine that it isn’t young people who are buying into the latest wackadoo conspiracy that the so-called “15-minute city” is a power-grab by the World Economic Forum to lock us all in PanEm-style authoritarian districts.