Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Teenager 'Cruising' Experience Has Changed

I grew up about a mile from the Niagara River, which connects Lake Erie with Lake Ontario with Niagara Falls in between. It was a rite of passage to turn 16, get a learners permit, and 'cruise' the riverfront in the family car. As my friends also got their permits, and eventually their own cars , the riverfront became the place to hang out and socialize. Well, at least during the warmer months. This was north of Buffalo, after all.

Last summer, I returned to my home town for a visit. Instinctively, I drove down to the riverfront for a cruise. My initial reaction, right after how my social status would have changed if I had the car then I have today, was where are all the cars? Were the days of cruising the river well behind? Sure, I would have been seen as that out of place older guy. But, what about tradition?

I came across a recent New York Times article that noted a new Federal Highway Administration report that the national rate of licensed 16-year-olds dropped to 29.8 percent in 2006 from 43.8 percent in 1998. Rationale was that State laws restricting driving, rising insurance costs, expensive driving schools, and safety are all reasons teens are waiting to drive.

This decline in licensed drivers may be a part of the reason for the riverfront being void of cars. The reason for the decline in licenses, however, may have less to do with laws and safety and more about teenagers not needing cars to get to places they can socialize.

Instead, 'cruising' with text messaging and online social networks has replaced cars. Teenagers do not know how lucky they are. They don't have to use the family avatar. Sphere: Related Content

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