Research Showed Fewer Young People in U.S. Having Driver's License

By Staff Writer

Jan 21, 2016 05:46 AM EST

University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) published a report that showed trend of declining number of people to have driver license. The numbers are significantly lower for young people.

Two researchers from UMTRI, Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak conducted their research by comparing the percentage of people of different age groups with drivers licenses in the United States in 1983, 2008, 2011 and 2014. According to Time Magazine, the research is indicating that over the last three decades, there is a smaller proportion of young Americans has been getting drivers' licenses.

This especially revealed in the millennials age group: people who reach their young adulthood in the new millennium, started from the year 2000. Columnist Catherine Rampell wrote her view regarding millenials in The Washington Post as, "Lazy, good-fer-nothin' millennials not only won't get jobs, find a spouse or move out of their parents' basements. They also don't even have driver's licenses."

In regard to downsize of the trend, Miss Rampell wrote that she already made email communication with Michael Sivak, one of the researchers. The researcher said he is currently studying possible explanations, and for the time being he is reluctant to speculate.

The report showed that in 31 years, between 1983 to 2014, there is a huge drop of 47% in the 16-year old age to have driver's license. In 20-24-year age group there is 15% drop from 1983. In 2014, the 20-24-year age group with driver licence are only 76.7%. In 1983 there are 91.8%, and declining to 82% in 2008.

Based on previous survey by UMTRI in 2013 on 618 respondents, the top three primary reasons of not obtaining driver's license was being too busy at 37%. The next reason was higher cost of owning and maintaining vehicle at 32% and ability to get transportation from someone else at 31%.

Other reason are preferences to other mode of transportation and concern of impact to environment. One interesting reason was the ability to communicate online and conducting business online, making people prefer to not have driver's license. From the respondent population, 22% said they would never obtain a driver's license, while 69% planned to get the license within 5 years.

CNBC suspected the emergence of ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft may have been one reason of the declining number. The ride sharing services provides a reasonable alternative for transportation needs of college students and young professionals, particularly in dense urban areas. Millennials are also more active in social media than meet people in person.

In order to anticipating the trend, General Motors was reported to invest $500 million in Lyft and planning to run ride-sharing service with self-driving vehicles. While Toyota and Ford have not noticed the impact of social media in their sales. 

Young people or millennials group tend to engage in social media rather than meeting people in person. That is one of the main reason why the number of young people with driver's license are declining.

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