Why are young people driving less?

3 December 2023

In the past, there was a trend among many young people. As soon as they reached the milestone 17th birthday, teens across the UK would sign up for driving lessons and get on the path towards passing their driving test.

But in recent years, that’s all changed. Back in April 2021, the Guardian revealed that the number of young adults with a full driving licence has fallen to a recent low. There are 18% fewer teenagers with a licence than there was 10 years ago.

So, what’s the reason for this shift in attitudes towards driving?

Shifting urbanisation trends

One major factor could be that urban living has proven to be increasingly popular. There were 56.5 million people living in cities in 2022 and the allure of city life has never been stronger for young people.

Cities offer convenience and accessibility, with public transport, ride-sharing services, and cycling easily accessible for many. Add to that the ability to order everything online direct to the door, from fashion to food, and it’s easy to see why many are delaying learning to drive.

Plus, busy city centres can be tricky to navigate by car. From one-way systems to roadworks, it can often be easier to walk or get the bus.

Economic realities and financial pressures

Money worries are another major issue. Student fees are more expensive than they were for millennials and the generations before them, so many young graduates have the burden of student loans to consider.

Also, there are the high costs of living right now. We’re still in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, so budgeting is key for many.

This can all make owning and maintaining a motor financially challenging. In response to this, young people are turning to more cost-effective alternatives, such as ride-sharing services and car hires. This makes financial sense. Taking out car insurance for one day while you borrow a friend’s car is more cost effective than paying out for your own ca r that you might not use that much.

Owning a car, once seen as a rite of passage into adulthood, is now being reevaluated in the face of economic constraints.

Embracing sustainable lifestyles

The growing awareness for environmental sustainability among young people plays a pivotal role in the declining interest in personal vehicle ownership. As climate change becomes an increasingly urgent issue, eco-friendly transportation options like cycling and public transport fit neatly with the values of environmentally conscious individuals.

Digital connectivity and remote work

While many businesses are trying to get workers back into the office, the vast majority have maintained a hybrid model after the pandemic. The rise of remote work and the opportunities available via digital connectivity have reshaped the way young people approach their professional lives.

The ability to work from home has reduced the number of daily commutes, making personal vehicles less essential. Tech has not only transformed the way work is done but also how social interactions take place, reducing the need for physical travel for both professional and personal purposes.

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