Alex Goldmark is the senior producer of Note to Self, a storytelling show about how technology is changing society. Subscribe here to get Note to Self shows delivered right to your devices. Follow him on Twitter @alexgoldmark.
Young Adults: We're Just Too Busy to Get Driver's Licenses, Says Survey
Tuesday, August 06, 2013 - 12:14 PM
Kids today: they just don't drive like they used to. There's been speculation as to what's behind the national decline in driving. Now, a new survey asked hundreds of unlicensed people just why they're not queuing up at the DMV. Here's what they said.
The University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute surveyed over 600 young adults (ages 18-39) who don't have driver's licenses. According to the responses, the top reason given was: "too busy or not enough time to get a driver’s license" (27 percent). (Study)
Being busy not only doesn't require driving, but inhibits driving for the young people in this survey.
The next most common answer: "the cost or owning a vehicle and maintaining a vehicle is too expensive" (15 percent) and "able to get transportation from others" (12 percent).
A whopping 22 percent—again, this is a sample made up exclusively of people without a license—said they plan to never get a driver's license.
This group was especially likely to be unemployed: 45.8 percent of them are out of work, compared to a 10.5 percent unemployment rate in the general population of 16 to 34 year-olds.
If so-called millienials are living at home longer, and they are having a tough time finding a job, it makes sense that they'd balk at the cost of buying a car. But that doesn't explain why the top answer was "we're too busy."
Eleven total options were offered as reasons for not getting a drivers license. In addition to the above, the other reasons ranged from medical problems and legal issues on up to preferring biking, walking and public transportation over driving—which when added together was the choice of almost 15 percent of those surveyed.
Only one of the options dealt with technology, and even that only with respect to work: "able to communicate and/or conduct business online instead." That means one of the more compelling theories for why transit is more popular among young people wasn't really captured in this survey: using smart phones and socializing online.
Previous studies have found far lower rates of young people applying for driver's licenses in this generation of teens than in previous ones. The same authors of this study have previously reported there is correlation between higher rates of internet users and lower rates of driving. The more of life we live online, the less we need to drive. And the more addicted we are to our phones, the more convenient riding the bus is over driving yourself.
A study last year by the Frontier Group and U.S. PIRG found that young people like transit a whole lot more than the generations before them, with ridership rates up about 40 percent per capita for 16 to 34 year-olds since 2001.
That study found:
"Young people are driving less for a host of reasons—higher gas prices, new licensing laws, improvements in technology that support alternative transportation, and changes in Generation Y’s values and preferences." (Note: "Young people" in this study refers to 16 to 34 year-olds, so it also includes what most people refer to as Millenials.)
A follow up study from U.S. PIRG found:
"Millennials are more likely to want to live in urban and walkable neighborhoods and are more open to non-driving forms of transportation than older Americans. They are also the first generation to fully embrace mobile Internet-connected technologies, which are rapidly spawning new transportation options."
The cool kids today would rather ride the bus while texting their girlfriend, or arrange a carpool through new apps and leave the hassle of the DMV for another time.
And this is a trend AAA says is worrisome, citing graduated drivers license rules -- which are pegged to age -- in the learning-to-drive process. AAA says "these requirements help novice drivers safely gain the skills and experience needed to become safe adult drivers."
"There's a segment of this generation missing opportunities to learn under the safeguards that GDL provides," said Peter Kissinger, the president of the AAA Foundation for Traffic safety, adding that getting licensed "has traditionally been considered to be a rite of passage."