Why Are Some Young People Choosing Not to Drive?

Why Are Some Young People Choosing Not to Drive?


B Noble, Department for Transport, UK


Why do fewer young people in Great Britain and other countries have driving licences than a decade ago? What factors are influencing this change, and what are the policy implications?


After steady growth for many years, the proportion of young people in GB with full licences started falling in the early 1990s. Over the last decade, the proportion of people aged 17-20 with a licence has fallen from 48% to 30%, and the effect is also clear for people in their 20s, and recently, in their early 30s. We have evidence of similar falls in Scandinavia and the USA, but in some other European countries, the proportion of licenced young drivers continues to grow.

Until these trends are investigated fully, there is concern that there may be an increase in young people driving without a licence. Fewer young drivers could have important policy and planning implications, especially if there is a new cohort of younger people who choose never to learn to drive, rather than just delaying the acquisition of a licence.

In particular, it could mean that current models need to be revised. Traffic may not grow as quickly in the future. Young people may get used to using alternatives to the car, including cycling, walking and taking a bus, and either never choose to drive, or delay driving until the demands of a young family make other alternatives less practical.

This paper will consider a number of explanatory factors using detailed cross sectional and trend data from the GB National Travel Survey and other data sources. It will discuss some of the likely reasons for the fall in licence holding, and include analysis of new attitudinal questions asked on the Office for National Statistics? Omnibus Survey in spring 2005, asking non-drivers for the reasons why they choose not to drive.

As far as possible, data from other countries will also be presented.


Association for European Transport