Racing's Dilemma - Kids Don’t Care About Cars
This article attempts to explain why motorsports has lost some of its popularity in the USA. TV ratings are down, attendance is down, and all series have taken to blaming the economy. But is it the economy, or is it something more deeply rooted?
A car was more than transportation when I was a kid. Your car represented who you were.
Everyone knew what a car meant... freedom! The liberty to go where you want, to be with your friends and to get into mischief. An automobile was true, genuine freedom and every one of us wanted it.
Not so anymore. The average high school kid is far more concerned with grabbing the latest iPad or the coolest cell phone than driving the right automobile.
Consider this: the average buyer of a new Corvette is 62 years old. The average age of a new Mustang buyer is 51.
Young people don't go "for a drive" anymore. A lot of them don't drive at all.
What happened? Well, a lot of things.
The automobile no longer represents freedom; today it represents servitude and debt. Unless you are lucky enough to live in a state that defies the federal "Real I.D. Act," getting a driver's license is a very Soviet-like experience. You’re not even allowed to smile for that hideous driver's license photo anymore for fear that their facial recognition software might lose the ability to track you like an animal.
The licensing system treats people like cattle - the primary difference being that they don't staple the license to your ear. Yet.
Most Americans would prefer a root canal without anesthesia over a trip to the BMV. Can we blame kids for avoiding it?
A driver's license is no longer a ticket to freedom. It's a tracking tool. Make no mistake, you don't have a license - your license has you.
It has a data strip on the back containing information about you. You don't know what's on it and couldn't change it if you did. Failure to produce your state papers on demand - whether you've done anything wrong or not - is a free ticket to jail.
Today's kids inherit $51,000 of debt at the moment of birth and graduate from college with another $25,250 added onto it. Why should they be expected to carry another $300 of debt per month to drive a new car, not to mention the mandatory insurance costs?
And even if they had a powerful new car, it's illegal to have any fun with it. Today's cars have safety features unheard of in 1965, yet speed limits are no higher, and in many cases, lower than they were 40 years ago.
The penalties for speeding are insane. Speeding in a construction zone (whether any construction is taking place or not) can carry a thousand dollar penalty. A pedestrian accident in a construction zone can earn you up to 14 years in prison.
Americans can no longer drive down the road in peace without worrying that a checkpoint lurks around the next corner. It's no longer safe to enjoy an interstate rest stop for fear of TSA "Viper" teams, who are now preparing to do for roadways what they’ve already done to American airports.
This, even while Detroit's Big Three auto makers provide us with products that make the hottest 1960’s muscle car look like a child's plaything. The 2013 Camaro ZL-1 will produce 581 horsepower. The 2013 Mustang Shelby GT500 tops 600 horsepower. They look awesome and drive better than anything ever built.
They're a kid's dream car, yet no one under the age of 50 buys them. And no, it's not merely due to economics... the economy was in the tank in the late 70's as well, but 20-somethings still lined up in droves to buy the Pontiac Trans Am.
Today's kids are simply not in love with driving. Oddly enough, they seek the same thing we sought as kids... freedom. But freedom is no longer found on American roadways. It is found on the Internet.
The Internet is the last place on earth where liberty reigns. The explosion of the Internet is an example of what true freedom can accomplish. You don't need a license or "I.D." You don't need anyone's permission. You can go anywhere, anytime. You can see places you've never been, meet new people and have fun.
Isn't that the same thing we wanted from cars a few decades ago?
Today's kids are abandoning the roadways, turning their backs on the finest cars ever built and instead flocking to the Internet. They're perfectly satisfied to sit on a subway and let someone else drive while they seek their personal freedom on an iPad.
They're looking for the same thing that kids have looked for since time began. They're just finding it in a different place.
And who is responsible? We are. This happened on our watch.
We elected and re-elected the same people who authorize more than 100 new pages of regulations per day at the federal level alone. We did nothing while a license to operate a motor vehicle was turned into an internal passport without which you can't fly, bank, write a check, ride a train, get a hotel room or even use a credit card.
If you want to know why the next generation doesn't share our passion for cars, go look in the mirror. American kids are falling out of love with the automobile because their parents fell out of love with freedom.
Shame on us.
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