Young Britain: Life in the fun lane begins with your own set of wheels

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The Independent Online
Chris Stewartsmith, 19, from Sevenoaks, Kent, is a first year student at Keele University, reading Psychology and History of Crime

I love Beetles. They are my life. I think Beetles are brilliant because they're cheap, they're great fun to drive and people turn their heads when they see one.

I get a lot of attention with mine from both young people who are into VWs and older people who used to own one and want to tell you about it. And it feels good to be noticed when you know that your car is looking good. It is such a buzz.

Cars are very important to young people. They give you freedom and make you upwardly mobile and independent. Having one means you don't have to rely on your parents for lifts anymore. And owning one at my age secures your passage to manhood.

Where I live public transport is just inconvenient. Buses and trains are unreliable and slow, and frankly, I find them boring.

Having a car means that you can be much more spontaneous, and go where you want, when you want.

When there's not much going on, having a car can provide you with something to do. Cars for young people aren't just a means to an end - they are a form of leisure in themselves.

All of my mates have cars and we just like to go driving. Driving is really exciting and is a great way of breaking the tedium.

I am concerned about the environment to an extent but I've never really associated my love of cars with that. I recycle my rubbish and so do all my mates, but the environment isn't my main topic of conversation.

Private car owners like us shouldn't be accused of destroying the environment, because it's the industrial lorries that use the motorways the most. If all of that kind of transport haulage was switched to rail then there wouldn't be any need to widen the motorways.

I am concerned about the hole in the ozone layer. If someone asks me if I am concerned then I say yes, but, to be honest, it doesn't occupy my mind much. I did think that people like Swampy and his crew were pretty amusing when I first saw them in the papers. I couldn't believe that any one would go to those lengths rather than write a letter like most people.

But after going on a student march against university tuition fees I realised that the only way that you can get people to notice you is by taking action. Still, I do think that in general Swampy goes a bit too far.

I don't think that it is necessarily hypocritical to be fond of cars and worry about environmental issues. Besides, I think of what I do as a form of recycling.

Some people get rid of their car after five years and buy a brand new one. I buy old cars and then restore them. So really I help to cut down on waste.