Why are US teenagers driving less?

tại sao giới trẻ nước Mỹ ít cầm lái hơn trước ?

|  g . l . o . s . s  |  taking to the road: lái xe ra đường | mythycal: thần thoại, tuyệt vời wonderful | cruising around: chạy xe vòng vòng// riding around | adolescent: tuổi thành niên, a juvenile between the onset of puberty and maturity | to a tee =perfectly, thật tuyệt vời |

By Brian Wheeler BBC News, Washington

American Graffiti

 The kid (Bọn trẻ, lũ thiếu niên)  with the coolest car (xe đẹp nhất) ruled high school in mythical Fifties America (những năm Năm mươi thần thoại)

American teenagers are taking to the road (lái xe ra đường) in fewer numbers than ever before. What’s behind this trend (điều gì giải thích cho xu thế này) and does it mean the end of the car as adolescent status symbol (biểu tượng của tuổi thành niên) and rite of passage (nghi thức vượt qua)?

If Ferris Bueller had a day off (có 1 ngày nghỉ) now, would he spend it on Facebook?

Recent research (một nghiên cứu gần đây) suggests many young Americans prefer to spend their money and time chatting to their friends online, as opposed to  (khác với, trái với) the more traditional pastime of cruising around (chạy đi vòng vòng) in cars.

For the high school students in films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and American Graffiti, cars were the ultimate expression (cách biểu đạt cao nhất) of individuality (cá tính con người) and personal freedom (tự do cá nhân) – just as they have been for generations (đối với bao thế hệ) of Americans.

“It was a rite of passage and something to look forward to (mong mỏi, trông chờ đến). You were only one of the cool kids if you drove and had your own vehicle,” says Kristin Nevels, of the American Automobile Association.

Keith Martin, editor of Sportscar Market magazine, puts it more poetically (nói một cách văn vẻ hơn) : “Kids in the 50s and 60s wanted a set of wheels and they wanted a set of sexy wheels.

“It goes back to the Wild West (Cũng như ngày trước thời chinh phục miền Viễn tây), when you got your first horse. You don’t have to sit in your mom and dad’s buggy (xe trẻ em) any more. You have personal mobility.”

‘Act of rebellion’

But with money tight (tiền bạc chặt chịa) in many households (gia đình), and the cost of gas and insurance soaring, some youngsters are having to choose between buying a car and owning the latest smartphone or tablet (máy tính bảng).

There is a great deal of pathos in America’s love affair with the car and the open road as a symbol of freedom”

Dan Neil Wall Street Journal

In a survey to be published later this year by Gartner, 46% of 18 to 24-year-olds said they would choose internet access over owning their own car. The figure is 15% among the baby boom generation (thế hệ bùng nổ trẻ con), the people that grew up in the 1950s and 60s – seen as the golden age of American motoring (văn hóa di chuyển bằng xe hơi của người Mỹ).

Wally Neil, a 25-year-old wholefood salesman (bán sĩ thực phẩm), from Raleigh North Carolina, was determined to stand out from the crowd (tự tách mình ra khỏi đám đông ) by not getting a driving licence and a car as soon as he was old enough.

But it was a decision made easier by the fact that he could speak to his friends online and play games with them over the internet so did not feel he was missing out (cảm giác bị bỏ rơi).

“We were all pretty closely connected, even before Facebook.

“So we were not driving to our friends’ houses, there was the gaming network and all that. We were putting the car on the back burner (idiom, ưu tiên hai).

“There is a lot to be said for the video game killing the need for a car for a lot of kids.”

For Wally, whose father Dan is a motoring writer and sports car enthusiast, walking everywhere or taking the bus when he was a teenager, rather than learning to drive, was “an act of rebellion”.

Tougher tests

But he still had to put up with the taunts of his friends, he says, who could not wait to get behind the wheel and thought public transport was “for losers”.

“I was ridiculed a little bit in my peer group but I was also saving a lot of money at the time.”

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Would today’s Ferris Bueller be updating  (ngồi lo cập nhật) his Facebook status (hiện cảnh) instead of riding round (crusing arond, chạy xe lòng vòng) town?

There is no question (no doubt, sure, obviuosly) that fewer teenagers are on the roads in the US.

In 1978, 50% of 16-year-olds had obtained their first driving licence. In 2008, according to the US Transportation Department, it was just 30% {after 30 years}.

The number of those aged 19 (tuổi 19) and under with driving licences has also been in steady decline (giảm liên tục) since its 1978 peak, when 11,989,000 had one. In 2010, it was 9,932,441, or 4.1% of American drivers.

In the UK, 683,273 teenagers have driving licences – just 1.85% of total licence holders, according to Department of Transport (Bộ Giao thông) figures from September 2010.

But the decline in the US may have more to do with (có liên quan nhiều đến) tougher tests  (kiểm tra nghiêm nhặt hơn) and the introduction of graduated licences in many states (bang), which force drivers aged under 16 to be accompanied by (phải được đi cùng xe) licensed drivers of 21 years and older, than the growth of social networking ().

Regional variations (các sự khác biệt từng vùng)

In recent years, the annual number of journeys being made by American drivers of all ages has declined significantly for the first time ever (lần đầu tiên, nhấn mạnh).

Car use began falling (bắt đầu giảm) in 2007, when average petrol prices  (giá xăng trung bình; US, gas price) almost doubled to $4.12 a gallon {khoảng 22,000/lít}, and the economy started its slide into recession (trượt dài vào suy thoái).

But there are signs (có những dấu hiệu cho thấy) it is back on an upward trajectory (đang có xu thế tăng lên trở lại) and America remains a country dominated by the automobile (bị chi phối bởi việc sử dụng ô tô).

Graph showing car use in the US

It has a higher number of cars per head of population than any other country in the world, apart from (không tính, ngoại trừ ) the tiny principality (công quốc) of Monaco.

“Vehicles will always be a popular mode of transportation (phương tiện để lại phổ biến) in America. You have to take into consideration some places don’t have access to mass transit (các phương tiện giao thông công cộng). Cars are the only way some people can get around (đi đây đi đó),” says Kristin Nevels.

This makes driving an imperative (chuyện bắt buộc) in some rural states (các bang nông thôn), where roughly twice as many teenagers are on the road than in major metropolitan areas (các vùng thủ phủ quan trọng, các tỉnh thành lớn).

Teenage driver 
Driving means freedom, for many teenagers
Đối với rất nhiều thanh thiếu niên, lái xe là biểu hiện của quyền tự do

Nevertheless, Wally Neil’s father Dan, a motoring writer for the Wall Street Journal, is convinced that (tin tưởng rằng ) “American youth have fallen out of love with (hết đam mê) automobiles” because of the rising cost of motoring and the fact that they are “living their lives online (sống cuộc sống trực tuyến nhiều hơn)”.

He refuses to get misty-eyed about (bị lóa mắt, bị mờ mắt) the “golden age” of teenage driving, however.

“The sadder of the two generations may be the earlier one, who spent their teenage years driving aimlessly around (chạy long nhong vô lối) , with the car at the centre of all their mating rituals (nghi thức để bắt đôi), struggling to make sense of where they were, clearly associating their status (tự đồng nhất .. giá trị bản thân, định vị xã hội của mình với) with the kind of car they drive.

“There is a great deal of pathos (tình cảm sâ xa, cảm hứng) in America’s love affair (chuyện say đắm) with the car and the open road (những con đường thênh thang) as a symbol of freedom (biểu tượng của tự do).

“The road isn’t free. There is a fantastic downside  (mặt trái, cái tiêu cực tất đáng ngại) of life based around the automobile.”


‘Safety regulations’

Keith Martin, who has teenage children, in addition to a collection of 10 high-powered classic sports cars, says American’s post-War “sense of self-confidence (cảm giác tự tín)” found perfect expression in its automobiles, which were “noisy, sexy and stylish” (ồn ào, sexy và thời thượng)

Today’s teenagers still love fast cars but as fantasy objects, he argues. Driving is much less fun than it used to be because of increased traffic congestion (kẹt xe, tắc đường) and the fact that the kind of cars most people can afford are “utilitarian” (có tính thiết thực, không phải kiểu cọ) and difficult to customise (tùy biến theo ý thích riêng)

“Modern cars are impossible to work on (vận hành, điều khiển) without screwing up (vặn vẹo, gây rắc rối với) the safety regulations,” he says.

But he adds: “Teenagers are finding their own way in a different world to the one we grew up in (khác với thế giới chúng ta tửng sống trước đây). They have different means of connecting (phương tiện kết nối giao tiếp). In the 50s and 60s jumping in the car (phóng lên xe) was all they had.”

Wally Neil thinks the American teenager’s romance with (tình yêu lãng mạn) the automobile is far from over (còn lâu mới dứt): “I think it will come back (sẽ trở lại). I just don’t see any longevity (chẳng có sự trường tồn nào) in Facebook or Twitter.”

He finally obtained a driving licence two years ago and says he has never looked back (chưa bao giờ nghĩ lại).

“I have moved close to work now (tôi giờ đã chuyển đến gần chỗ làm)  but I still use my car to get here. It is just so good to have it (có xe cũng thật là hay) now. I know the value of it to a tee (=perfectly, thật tuyệt vời ).”


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