bicycle commuter

It’s not just Millennials — more people are putting off getting driver’s licenses.

Studies have shown that Millenials have less interest in getting licensed to drive than previous generations, and it’s also the case for many older people, according to a new study by the University of Michigan Research Institute (UMTRI). “The most recent trend holds true for pretty much all age groups,” University of Michigan researchers said.

In 2013, Rene Wisely wrote for Edmunds that most teens were delaying getting a driver’s license, with only 44% getting one within 12 months of becoming old enough. In 2008, Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, the researchers who conducted the new study, found there was a significant decrease in the number of licensed drivers in the youngest age group, Peter Gareffa reported for Edmunds. Twenty years earlier, more than two-thirds of teens got their licenses by the time they reached 18, Gareffa wrote. According to the study:

Even the proportion of Americans ages 45-69 with driver’s licenses [has] declined overall since 2008, following a 25-year rise.

The Future of Transportation

Sivak wrote that these changes will have potentially major implications for the future of transportation, among those, the safety of travel.

Nathan Bomey, writing for USA Today about the younger generation and driving, said that cars are becoming less important or less accessible to Millennials. Also ride-sharing services (for instance, Uber and Lyft) are practical for many young people, particularly in dense urban areas.

Automakers think Millennials may have less incentive to get out and meet their friends in person because they’re in steady communication through their smartphones.

Also, with more and more safety hurdles, it’s not as easy to get a license at 16 as it once was, which has led to a sharp decline in teenagers who are driving.

Changes Not Just Generational?

A 2014 study by the Public Interest Research Group found that such services as Lyft and Uber “could lay the groundwork for a new model of mobility that is less dependent on private car ownership,” Christina Beck wrote for the Christian Science Monitor. She opines that the trends that UMTRI discusses are “structural shifts rather than generational ones.”

In another news item about road travel as it relates to older people, a report in The Wall Street Journal said Japan has been testing autonomous vehicles as a way to eventually provide transportation for the elderly in rural areas, where there are not many public transportation options. Japan has more older people than many other countries, wrote Mike Ramsey, Miho Inada, and Yoko Kutota. In Japan, 25% of the population is older than 65, whereas only about 15% of the U.S. population is over 65.

Safety of Self-Driving Cars

The Wall Street Journal article quoted Kazuhiro Doi, Renault-Nissan’s research chief:

We have an issue because Japan is an aging society. One of the requests of the government is to make us safer with autonomous cars.’

The article went on to say that self-driving features, which could reduce the chance of car accidents, could increase sales if older consumers are driving longer and continue buying vehicles.

Image by Tyler Olson/123RF.

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