Why are young people not learning to drive?
Government figures reveal a drop in young people getting a license
Only 35% of young people aged between 17 and 20 have a UK driving license, according to figures published by the Department for Transport. That’s a drop from 30 years ago when the percentage was about 48%.
Research completed by the government suggested that it was male drivers where the drop was highest. Whereas in the early 1990s around 55% of young men had a licence, now it’s just 34%. In comparison, for young women, the drop was only from 42% to 35%.
In a survey conducted by DfT, 25% of young people claimed the high cost of learning to drive was the main reason why they haven't got a license. 16% said they were just not interested and 15% claimed they were too busy.
According to automotive firm RAC, it costs on average around £1,551 for young people to get a UK license. That covers everything from lessons to testing fees.
Not only this, though, but once young people do get a license, the cost of second cars plus the extortionate insurance - especially for male drivers - can push the cost upwards to well over £6,000, say RAC.
For my 17th birthday, I was given driving lessons. It was probably the best gift I ever got - better than any console or train set - because driving was freedom. It meant going into town to see your mates, blasting the stereo and, sometimes, having somewhere to canoodle a lady friend.
Everyone I grew up with learnt to drive at 17, it was just something you did. However, I lived in the countryside where cars are critical to life. In reality, nowadays, the vast majority of young people live in urban centres. And, if they aren’t born there, often young folk migrate to them as part of university or apprenticeships.
For example, according to the Trust for London, the inner capital is made up predominantly of people aged between 20 and 35.
From Trust for London
Given our cities increasingly have better transport options - from tubes to electric scooters - is it any wonder that young people don’t learn to drive?
Driving when you live in a city is an expensive gig. Not only do you need to buy the car itself, but you also face higher insurance because of theft risks, have to pay around £500 a year for a parking permit - very few urban homes have a driveway - and increasingly costly congestion charges. And, after all that, it often makes very little sense to drive anywhere in a city. Not if you want to get there on the same day that is.
The only value a driving license has for young people in the city is being able to access the growing number of car-sharing schemes. These are so you only pay for a car when you really need it. This is what I do in London and it’s extremely valuable. Especially as you often get to try out a variety of models. However, most won’t see the point in this given you can request drivers now at the drop of a hat.
Will the numbers continue to fall?
The figures discussed today come from 2019, so it’s probably safe to say it’s already lower. As public transport, micromobility, self-driving and sharing schemes continue to grow, I sadly believe fewer and fewer young people will shell out for a license.
Perhaps one way to change the tide would be to make everyone using public roads - such as electric scooters and e-bikes - complete the theory part of a driving test. Having a multitude of motorists driving different vehicles without knowing the rules of the road could get very sketchy, in my opinion.
What do you think? Do you have a license, do you want one or do you not see the point?