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Decline in young with driver permits continues

Posted by Elena del Valle on July 25, 2012

Fewer young people are obtaining a driver’s license, according to researchers at University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute


Research conducted by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Ann Arbor, Michigan indicates again that fewer young people, compared to previous decades, are obtaining a driver’s license. The researchers reviewed driver license and general population information from the Federal Highway Administration and the United States Census Bureau to find that the trend they had identified in the past continues. As an example, they point to drivers 19 years of age. Their findings indicate 87.3, 75.5, and 69.5 percent of these individuals had a driver’s license in 1983, 2008, and 2010 respectively.

“The most significant aspect of our findings is that the trend that we observed in a previous study is continuing,” said Sivak by email. “Specifically, young and middle-aged persons are less likely to get a driver’s license now than were the corresponding age groups 30 years ago. We think that the availability of electronic communication has a lot to do with this trend.”

Earlier this year (see Older adults more likely drivers than in past decades), after examining data for 1983 to 2008 in the United States and 14 other countries they concluded there was a noticeable decrease in the percent of young people obtaining a driver’s license and an increase in the percent of older people with one. They have since examined additional data in the United States through 2010 that indicates the trend continues for young people and that there is a reduction in the proportionate number of driver’s licenses across age groups.

They still believe the trend relates inversely to the continued increase in internet usage. They concluded that the more people rely on the internet for contact the less they require in person contact.

It’s unclear whether the trend applies to all market segments. Hispanics which as a market are younger than the general market may be affected. A Ford Motor Company representative when asked about the trend responded negatively.

“For Hispanic consumers cars are a symbol of freedom, accomplishment and status,” said Alvaro Cabal, manager, Multicultural Communication, Ford Motor Company.

Except in cities with efficient mass transportation systems like New York and Washington, D.C., the research findings are not in evidence in car buying behavior, he explained by phone. He went on to say that since the 2008 recession when car sales dropped the company has experienced a steady increase in car purchases, especially among 18 to 45 year old buyers.