When gas prices spiked in April, Americans reacted in a logical, yet surprising way: They drove less. It's a sign, writes Charles Lane of the Washington Post, that America's love affair with the car is on the rocks. Getting a license, for instance, isn't the "rite of passage" it used to be; only 28.7% of 16-year-olds got their licenses in 2010, down from 44.7% in 1988. Lane blames cell phones, which make "it easier for youngsters to stay in touch without actually, er, touching."
It's not just teens; all Americans are driving less. Vehicle miles traveled per capita have been leveling off since 2000, after decades of growth driven by women entering the workforce and a growing black middle class, trends that have widely petered out. "America’s love affair with the car may never end," Lane concludes. "But it does seem to be cooling down; it’s more like a stable marriage than a red-hot romance." But married life isn't so bad. If the trend holds, it can only be good for the environment, and for oil prices. Click for Lane's full column.