"I want to be in my own car for as long as possible. I want to be independent for as long as I can," said Diane Spitaliere, 58, a retired government worker in Alexandria, Va.
Male drivers under age 44 are still slightly more numerous than women of the same age, but that's only because young men outnumber young women in the general population, the study said. There now are 105 boys born each year for every 100 girls in the U.S. Women outnumber men later in life because they live longer â¿¿ an average of 80 years for women, compared with about 75 years for men.
Rising Internet usage may be part of the reason for the decline in the share young drivers, especially young men, Sivak said. A previous study by the transportation institute published earlier this year found that countries that have higher Internet usage also have a lower licensure rate of teens and young adults.
"There is some suggestive evidence that Internet contact is reducing the need for personal contact," he said.Other researchers have theorized that digital media and technology may make driving less desirable and public transportation more convenient. Texting while driving is dangerous and illegal in most states, but there's no risk to texting or working on a laptop while riding a bus or train. Some transit systems have been seeing significant increases in riders. Another reason for the growing disinterest among young men in driving may be the erosion of the "car-fetish society," travel behavior analyst Nancy McGuckin said. "Today's young adults grew up in the back seat of cars stalled in congestion, hearing their folks swear at the endless traffic. Nothing romantic about that!" It is also "no longer cool, or even possible, to work on your own vehicle. The engines are so complex most people don't even change their own oil," she said. "Independence, freedom, being able to customize the car to reflect you â¿¿ these are not part of young people's association with vehicles."