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Why are young people not learning to drive?

Government figures reveal a drop in young people getting a license

6d ago
18.3K

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.

My view

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

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?

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Comments (38)

  • Cars became as bland and generic as duck.

    EVs in particular. Who couls blame them. Take an e-scooter and get it over with.

    Sad but true.

      6 days ago
    • I agree, EV’s are like white goods (washing machines et al) and whilst the top end ones are brilliant ($$$$), the bottom end ones are as exciting as watching paint dry!!

        5 days ago
    • Cars have ALWAYS been like white goods at a certain level of affordability. What people enthuse glowingly over today, was just yesterday's porridge. Morris Minors, Ford Populars, Standard eights, Ford Fiestas, RWD Escorts, Vauxhall...

      Read more
        5 days ago
  • Currently at the moment there is a huge backlog of people waiting to take their driving tests. The figures they have given might be slightly out of context to reality. I do agree that if you live in a town or city a car isn't the best thing to have as transportation. When I have visited London I can literally get to most places on the tube quickly and easily, although regular commuters will tell you that taking public transport in the rush hour isn't great which I can agree on.

      6 days ago
    • Oh yeah commuting by tube, train or bus is not perfect by any measure. But it's generally cheap! And when you're young that's all that matters really.

        6 days ago
    • Issue is some parts of the country have worse public transport than other parts of the country. In the West Midlands the public transport is pretty bad compared to London as there are buses but they aren't as regular as you want them to be. In...

      Read more
        6 days ago
  • It makes sense, which is a shame. I'm genuinely considering getting my licence when I am 17 (a year's time) but not getting my own car until I have been through Uni (assuming I go) just because of how much it costs, it mainly depends on whether I am earning and how much.

      6 days ago
  • I'd like a driver's license,but i am only 9 years old lol

      6 days ago
    • I started driving at your age ;)

        5 days ago
    • I don't know where you live Nikola, but driving might no longer be necessary by the time you are allowed to drive a car. I'm at the opposite end of the scale. I'm getting towards the end of my life and in the eight to ten years you still have to wait...

      Read more
        5 days ago
  • I live in the country side so driving was part of life for me. I'm not sure when i started driving becouse i lived on a farm and was driving tractors in fields from an early age. Passing my test at 17 just ment i could now leave the fields and drive along the roads as well. I now drive a lorry and find myself drivin-errr-queueing around London alot. I must admit, as i sit there in the traffic while people walk cycle or wizz past on an E scootor thing which requires no licance, no incurance, no mot while you also don't have to worry about parking charges or having to rent a parking spot hopfully within walking distance of your house. I just don't think cars make sence in the city anymore, Its a very expensive form of transport and from what i can see the slowest as well.

      6 days ago
    • Definitely! I think most council's long-term plan for cities will mean fewer or no cars within certain urban areas.

        6 days ago
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