The days of teenagers getting their driver’s licenses the very day it becomes legally possible may soon be in the rearview. According to a report released recently by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, only three in four people ages 20 to 24 held a driver’s license in 2014.
Speculation has been swirling for years as to why fewer young people are getting their driver’s licenses, and there is no shortage of theories.
Some say it’s because the process of getting your driver’s license at 16 has become lengthier. Others say it’s due to an increase in the use of ride-sharing and public transit. There's also the theory that Millennials have less incentive to meet their friends in person because they can communicate constantly through social media and smartphones.
But the long and short of it seems to be that cars have simply become less necessary and less accessible to Millennials.
Popularity of ride-sharing
One of the most prevalent theories on why young people are going in a different direction when it comes to driving is the option of ride-sharing services.
Uber and Lyft, especially in urban areas, provide a viable alternative to getting places without having to be saddled with a vehicle of your own.
And although automakers claim they haven’t noticed an impact on their sales as a result of ride-sharing services, they’re adapting to the shift just to be safe. General Motors invested $500 million in Lyft earlier this month and plans to deploy a network of self-driving vehicles through the ride-sharing service.
The spike in the popularity of ride-sharing services, coupled with the decrease in driver’s licenses, may also point to the fact that cars have become less affordable for Millennials.
For debt-strapped college students and recent grads, new vehicles may be out of the realm of possibility, financially speaking. The average price of a new vehicle was $33,188 in 2015, up 20% since 2005, according to Edmunds.com analysts.
With numbers like these, it’s not hard to see why ride-sharing has become a more attractive option. But is this the way of the future or just a passing trend? Many analysts claim it’s the former.
Not just a fleeting trend
Some analysts say the dip in driver’s licenses is fleeting — a temporary blip which has come about as the result of more Millennials delaying their decision to start families. But new research shows that the downward trend is evident even into the child-rearing years.
Furthermore, experts say it’s not just Millennials who are skipping the driver’s licenses. Since 2011, more Americans between the ages of 16 to 70 have been deciding they can do without a driver's license, according to data from the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute.
The 70+ age group was the only cohort not affected by this dip. This, experts say, is due to the fact that people are living longer than they were in 1983. Fewer health problems translates to more years active and behind the wheel.