According to the DVLA, the number of young people qualified to drive has fallen to the lowest on record, having fallen below 3 million 18-25 year olds since the previous year. Why are young people driving less than ever before? Some commentators have suggested that the pandemic is largely responsible for the downturn in new licenses issued, however there is a larger trend here – and reasons which stretch back to before the pandemic ever started.
The banking crisis of 2008 was a bellwether moment for society in the coming years. The short-term economic shock directly impacted on the livelihoods of much of the UK’s population, and its effects could be seen in every industry – even in the annual number of driving licenses issued by the DVLA. The crunch is still felt in many families and communities to this day, and even with the increased accessibility of car repairs, and the increased availability parts like cheap tyres, many simply cannot afford the costs incurred by running a vehicle.
Those coming of driving age in the decade after the economic crash may not be feeling that shock as acutely, but there still exists a barrier to entry – a mental one. The rigours of the driving test, with all the studying, the cost of lessons, the exams and re-taking them in the event of a failure (or an unkind examiner) may not appeal any more to younger potential drivers, who are already taken up with the increased difficulty of school exams and the rigours of modern life. And if the end result is to be able to drive a car you can’t afford, why bother?
Cost of living
Of course, the cost of driving and maintaining a car does not exist in a vacuum. As the cost of living continues to increase for many people, families and individuals are having to make tougher choices with regard to their spending habits. Between weekly shops and the vital devices required for modern day life and work – phone contracts, financed laptops and necessary software subscriptions – there just isn’t enough money in the budgets of many people to keep up a car at the same time. And as remote working becomes even more of a viable business practice, driving becomes less of a daily requirement for long-distance work.
Lastly, public transport has seen a resurgence in popularity, as local investments in infrastructure see transport links vastly improved in comparison to the 20th century. These improved networks, alongside the introduction of congestion charges and carbon neutral zones in cities, have resulted in more people eschewing private vehicles for cheaper, accessible links.
Environmental issues have also become more important in the minds of the public, with public concern over the climate crisis beating out economic concerns in 2019. This move towards a population more mindful of their carbon footprint has led to a drop in interest in learning to drive.