TODAY

TODAY   |  August 21, 2013

With ‘cyber hitchhiking,’ teens in no rush to drive

Thanks to social media and a tough economy, teens aren’t in any hurry to get a driver’s license. Instead, they’ll just search for a ride on Twitter. NBC’s Kerry Sanders reports.

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>>> day you turned old enough to drive? well, these days the excitement over that right of passage is changing thanks in part to social media . nbc's kerry sanders is in fort lauderdale with more. kerry, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, carl. i remember the very day i turned 16 and got my driver's license. you probably remember that day. but for teens today, that day, really not so important anymore. kids are sort of putting it off but they still want the sense of being liberated. of getting out. part of the reason maybe because a gallon of gas is expensive but they also know they can get around using social media . they can get on there and hitch a ride using things like twitter. look at my hashtag this morning. i need a ride to 30 rock . melissa is just four months shy of her 18th birthday yet she still does not have her driver's license. to get to the gym tuesday she grabbed a ride with her parents.

>> it's hard having to rely on other people.

>> but you do it.

>> i do. it's hard. but for the most part it's okay.

>> melissa is not alone. according to a recent university of michigan study in 1983 , 69% of 17-year-olds had a driver's license but in 2010 , that number dropped to 46%. used to be teenagers would hitchhike and they still do and still use their thumbs but now on social media .

>> instagram, facebook, messaging, twitter, anything.

>> that all works?

>> yeah.

>> reporter: it works so well, some kids no longer dream about getting a new car. instead, they dream about getting the latest smartphone.

>> most of them would probably pick an iphone. that's our new vehicle for connectivity.

>> reporter: a teen with no car asks friends who wants to go to cider mill to get donuts. #i need a ride. #i'll buy.

>> some love it.

>> it's amazing technology today.

>> and it works?

>> it works.

>> and mom is happy for that?

>> i am because it makes life easy.

>> reporter: howell does it work? we put two teens to the test.

>> i'll start a stopwatch here. go ahead. let's see you go on instagram and twitter and let's see how long it takes to get a ride.

>> reporter: within moments of posting on instagram they had an answer.

>> he liked it and i texted him if he can give us a ride.

>> reporter: for the next 28 minutes, more responses but not a single ride. after more than 40 minutes the two buddies gave up and decided to walk the five miles home.

>> reporter: but the story doesn't end there. after walking for about 5 minutes one of their friends looking on instagram, saw their message, circled around and picked them up and gave them a ride home. so it does work. parents should check their children's phones and social media to make sure their settings are on private. last thing you want is a stranger to show up and offer the teenagers a ride.

>> that's a great story. kids still want the car. they want the control of driving.

>> did you get your driver's license the day you turned 16.

>> of course.

>> did you?

>> i got my driver's license when i was 18 but that's because i lived overseas. but this makes me nervous. it makes me really nervous. the good thing with this is to make sure that the privacy settings are set. that it's just your friends that are in the loop.

>> i don't know. i think it's terrifying on multiple levels.