The study, published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention, found a decrease in young drivers in Canada, United States, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Norway and South Korea. The researchers, from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute looked at trends in 14 countries.
While in 1983, close to 94 percent of young Americans in their 20s had a licence, that proportion dropped to 84 percent in 2008.
This downward trend was not seen in Israel, Finland, Poland, Latvia, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
The fact that less young Canadians are getting their driver's licence doesn't surprise Suzanne Vukosavljevic, director of public relations at Young Drivers of Canada.
"Novice drivers come at any age," she says. "It's not like before where you'd be counting down to your sixteenth birthday to run out and get your licence."
She explains that although some kids do that, others are not so quick to get behind the wheel. Some hold off because they live in cities with great access to public transportation. Others might have someone who drives them where they need to go, so feel no need to rush to get their licence. And in some cases, it's an economic decision — adding a teenager as a driver can hike insurance premiums for parents.
Although she thinks learning to drive is an important milestone for young people, Vukosavljevic recognizes that with social media, teens have less motivation to get a licence.
"Before, if they didn't physically get to see their friend, or pick their friend up or drive with their friend, how else would they connect?" she says. "But now, they're connecting by texting each other, e-mailing one-another, they're on Facebook, they're constantly connected through social media."
Michael Sivak, co-author of the study, confirms that social media is playing a big role in keeping the younger generation from driving.
"Countries with higher proportions of Internet users were associated with lower licensure rates among young persons. This is consistent with the hypothesis that access to virtual contact through electronic means reduces the need for actual contact among young people," says Sivak in a press release.
Sivak also suggests the findings can somewhat be explained by the fact that are comparatively fewer young people in the countries that saw this trend.
Have you noticed this trend among people you know? What are their reasons for not getting their licence?