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Pop Culture

It turns out Gen Z is resistant to driving and maybe they’re onto something

A growing number of young people say they're afraid to get behind the wheel.

Photo by JD Weiher on Unsplash

The percent of teens getting their driver's licenses has declined signifcantly.

If it feels like you're meeting more and more older teens and young adults who don't have their driver's license, it's not your imagination. Gen Z has been much less interested in driving than previous generations, according to Department of Transportation data shared by USA Today.

In 1983, about half of 16-year-olds had driver's licenses. By 2022, that number declined to about a quarter. During that same time, 18-year-olds with driver's licenses dropped from 80% to 60%.

There are some explanations for what's caused the drop. For one, thanks to video calling, young people don't need to drive to see each other like previous generations did. Even if they do get together in person, improvements in public transportation and the proliferation of ride share offerings like Uber and Lyft have made it easier to do so without a car. Driving is also expensive, especially when you take the higher insurance premiums of young drivers into account. Gen Z has grown up more environmentally conscious than previous generations, and have grown up hearing about the blight of carbon emissions on the planet.

But in addition to that, there appears to be a sharp increase in anxiety around driving, and some experienced adult drivers are defending those fears as warranted.

According to a survey of non-driving teens by insurance comparison website The Zebra, nearly 1 in 4 said that they haven't gotten a license because they are afraid to drive a car. While it's easy to chock that up to the general increase in mental health disorders among young people, the fear of driving may be warranted.

In our car dependent society, choosing not to drive might seem like an odd decision, but there may be some wisdom behind it. As a user on X posted, "Honestly, I don't understand why ppl shame teens for not wanting to know how to drive. Why do we act like it's not terrifying?" and many people shared their experiences of car accidents really messing them up.

Statistically speaking, driving is the most dangerous thing most humans do, and Americans do it more than any other nation. But because we drive so often, the risk factor isn't something we think about as much as maybe we should.

Young people learning to drive today are logically more aware of the risks than previous generations. Ask a boomer what they learned in Driver's Ed and it's a far cry from what Gen Z learns. Boomers didn't even have required seat belts when they learned to drive. Kids today have not only grown up with seat belts but with high tech car seats and various booster seat iterations specific to their age and size. Those safety restraints keep us all safer, of course, but they are also a constant reminder of the dangers inherent in being in a moving vehicle. Being a passenger is one thing, but the responsibility of being the driver of that moving vehicle is entirely another.

Driver education courses have also evolved over the years to include graphic warnings about driving under the influence and distracted driving, which previous generations only got a fraction of. The idea is to scare teens who believe they're immortal into understanding the danger that comes with doing those things, but for young people who are already prone to feeling anxious, seeing those terrifying scenarios can make the fear of driving worse. Most young people I've spoken to who have completed Driver's Ed but aren't in any hurry to get their license say that driving just makes them too nervous. Some of them have decided after a couple of years that they wanted their license, so it's just delayed a bit. Others don't have any plans to and seem to be doing fine with other ways of getting around.

Holding off on driving simply doesn't need to be viewed negatively, especially when the risks of driving are real. Driving may be a valuable skill to have, but there's no reason that skill has to be mastered by a certain age. If a good portion of Gen Z isn't feeling it and choose to walk or bike or carpool or use public transportation instead, more power to them. Those choices are more affordable and better for the environment anyway, so let's embrace the idea that choosing not to drive is a reasonable one and not judge or shame anyone for it.

Prominent members of the business community looking to put people before profits spoke out against President Trump's immigration order this weekend — an unexpected but welcome part of the backlash to the ban.

On Jan. 30, 2017, Gillian Tett of the Financial Times appeared on CNBC to discuss the financial risks of businesses that face off against the president and how those risks leave many CEOs loathe to speak out against any individual policy, even if they oppose it on personal and professional levels.

"They are scared out of their minds about being attacked [by Trump] ... and what that's going to do for their business," she explained.

Those CEOs aren't wrong to worry, either. Since being elected, Trump has continually taken aim at companies that have criticized him, using his Twitter account to tank their stock prices.

In December 2016, after Boeing's CEO made an argument in favor of trade agreements, Trump fired off a series of tweets about canceling plans to use the company for the new Air Force One series of planes. As a result, the company's stock price fell by 1% before recovering. Trump's tweet about Boeing and a $4 billion contract was a bit of an exaggeration; the company has a $170 million contract, which a tweet cannot cancel.

Knowing that a Trump-fueled attack on their companies — and the value of their shares — could be waiting just around the corner, here are 15 companies and CEOs who took a stand against the immigration ban this weekend:

1. Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky offered free housing to people affected by the travel ban.

On a statement posted to its website, the company also offered a way for Airbnb hosts to volunteer help.

2. Dropbox founder and CEO Drew Houston called Trump's order "un-American."

3. Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson spoke out against the order and urged others to contact legislators and support organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union.

4. Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted an essay to his profile sharing the story of his and his wife Priscilla's immigrant and refugee origins.

"We should also keep our doors open to refugees and those who need help," Zuckerberg wrote. "That's who we are. Had we turned away refugees a few decades ago, Priscilla's family wouldn't be here today."

My great grandparents came from Germany, Austria and Poland. Priscilla's parents were refugees from China and Vietnam....

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Friday, January 27, 2017

5. Google created a crisis fund to support immigrant-rights organizations.

According to a statement provided to USA Today, Google has created a $4 million crisis fund for four immigrant-rights organizations: the American Civil Liberties Union, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, International Rescue Committee, and UNHCR.

"We’re concerned about the impact of this order and any proposals that could impose restrictions on Googlers and their families, or that could create barriers to bringing great talent to the U.S.," said the company. "We'll continue to make our views on these issues known to leaders in Washington and elsewhere."

Google headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Photo by Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images.

6. Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta donated $100,000 to the ACLU — and didn't stop there.

In a short Twitter thread on Sunday evening, Instacart founder and CEO Apoorva Mehta announced a $100,000 donation to the ACLU, the creation of "office hours" with immigration attorneys for employees and their families, and a pledge to expedite H-1B visas and green cards for employees in need.

7. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner used Trump's ban as an opportunity to boost and expand the company's Welcome Talent program for refugees in the U.S.

8. In a blog post, ride-hailing app Lyft's co-founders John Zimmer and Logan Green committed to a $1 million donation to the ACLU over the next four years.

"We created Lyft to be a model for the type of community we want our world to be: diverse, inclusive, and safe. This weekend, Trump closed the country's borders to refugees, immigrants, and even documented residents from around the world based on their country of origin. Banning people of a particular faith or creed, race or identity, sexuality or ethnicity, from entering the U.S. is antithetical to both Lyft's and our nation's core values. We stand firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community. We know this directly impacts many of our community members, their families, and friends. We stand with you, and are donating $1,000,000 over the next four years to the ACLU to defend our constitution. We ask that you continue to be there for each other - and together, continue proving the power of community."

A Lyft driver in San Francisco. Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Lyft.

9. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings didn't mince words on his Facebook page, calling Trump's executive order "so un-American it pains us all."

Trump's actions are hurting Netflix employees around the world, and are so un-American it pains us all. Worse, these...

Posted by Reed Hastings on Saturday, January 28, 2017

10. Nike's president and CEO took a stand against the ban in an email to employees.

Looking to Olympian Mo Farah's statement on how Trump's ban would prevent the four-time gold medalist from returning to his home in the U.S., Nike President and CEO Mark Parker emailed employees, urging them to "[stand] together against bigotry and any form of discrimination."

11. Postmates founder and CEO Bastian Lehmann — who also happens to be an immigrant — wrote a blog post skewering the Trump administration, saying, "I no longer believe it to be reasonable to remain silent."

He also pledged to match employee donations to the ACLU and International Refugee Assistance Project.

"The trade-off of these policies is obvious. In exchange for the guise of safety rooted in fear of those with different religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds we will be abandoning the diverse melting pot of culture and ideas that has made the United States prosper. That is the bedrock that creative growing companies like Postmates have been built upon. Ignoring the dynamics of this diversity, which is distinctly American and has set our country apart from the rest the world throughout history is short sighted and damaging."

Bastian Lehmann at TechCrunch Disrupt London in 2015. Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for TechCrunch.

12. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff shared some poignant scripture and a well-known (if sadly ignored) piece of poetry, using the hashtag #noban.

13. Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield delivered an impassioned argument against the administration's actions and shared his family's own story of immigration.

"My grandfather came from Poland between the wars, at 17, sponsored by an elder sister," he wrote.

"Two more siblings made it. Everyone else died. Their parents were shot in the streets and thrown in a mass grave (we believe). Their other siblings died in the camps. Every cousin (and really, everyone they knew) was killed. That whole branch of the family tree snuffed out. And now we want to do this to others. It's bewildering and confusing and terrifying."

14. In a letter to employees, Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz unveiled a four-part rebuke to Trump's actions toward immigrants and refugees.

The plan includes supporting DACA, hiring refugees, building bridges with Mexico instead of walls, and committing to support Starbucks employees if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

Schultz also pledged to hire 10,000 refugees in 75 countries over the next five years.

15. Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey called the executive order "upsetting."

The day the order was signed, Dorsey shared a mini-documentary about Yassin Terou, a Syrian refugee living in the U.S.

Long before his political aspirations took flight, Trump was a CEO, which makes the response from the business community even more powerful.

If he refuses to listen to the American people and fellow politicians, perhaps it'll be the judgment of the country's corporate leaders that sways Trump's opinion one way or another.

CEOs and business leaders who are willing to take a stand against some of Trump's harmful policies may be one of the more effective ways of communicating with him.