What's Behind the Decline in Young Drivers?

The results of a recent survey indicate the primary reasons for the steady decline in the number of young Americans getting drivers' licenses. Hint: the top reason isn't that it costs too much to own a car.
August 8, 2013, 11am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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new survey [PDF] published by Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, "found that about 15.3 percent of the U.S. population aged 18 to 39 now gets by without a license, a big increase from past years," reports Brad Plumer. "And, within that group, [the researchers] asked 619 people their primary reason for not owning one." The top three reason given were:

  • 37 percent said they were either too busy or didn’t have the time to get a license.
  • 32 percent said that owning and maintaining a vehicle was just too expensive.
  • 31 percent said they could hitch a ride with someone else if needed.

Though the percentage of young Americans without a drivers’ license is still relatively small (15%), "the number of young non-drivers in the United States has been rising steadily, a trend that has implications for everything from transportation policy to future auto sales," notes Plumer. "And this survey offers some clues as to why — owning a car seems to be more of a hassle, while alternatives (from biking to public transit to telecommuting) are becoming more popular."

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Published on Wednesday, August 7, 2013 in The Washington Post
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