Roads to grow quieter as Millennials and Gen Z opt against driving

Cars on motorway

Figures from the Office of National Statistics suggest that more and more people under 40 are choosing public transport over buying a car.

The data shows that just 60% of UK residents aged 25 hold a full UK driving licence, compared to a whopping 94% of those aged 54.

The data also shows that there are more young women drivers today than there have been in previous years.

Millennial characteristics - Why are millennials driving less?

There are a few reasons why millennials (anybody born between 1981 and 1996) and Gen Z (between 1997 and 2012) appear to be ditching driving for alternative transport.

Firstly, those categorised as millennials are likely to find themselves in either full-time education or full-time work – both of these routes, more often than not, lead straight to built-up, urban areas where having a car to make short trips back and forth is neither financially or logistically justifiable.

The costs involved with driving, from the initial outlay and insurance to parking and fuel, make hopping on a bus or in an Uber a far more desirable alternative.

The fall in driving licence holders can also be put down to the rise in those of the same age being put-off homeownership by high prices and instead, opting for short-term rentals in busy urban areas, where parking is often limited.

Combine this with the average age of first-time parents continuing to rise, there is simply less obligation for young people to learn to drive.

When will roads become quieter?

It won’t happen overnight and, to be honest, you probably won’t even notice!

The age at which people in the UK stop driving – voluntarily or not – is usually around 70. This can be put down to the rise of car insurance premiums for elderly citizens, an increase in the likelihood of poor health preventing them from getting behind the wheel and the hassle of having to renew a driving licence at 70.

Graph showing number of full UK driving licences held by age

The 94% of 54-year-olds on the road at the moment will likely face a similar fate within the next 20 years which, along with the rise of easy ride-sharing, driverless vehicle technology and an optimistic view that public transport in rural areas will improve, could certainly ease congestion over the next two decades.

The UK driving licence gender gap

There are more millennial women drivers now than there are in any other age group.

There are more males within the UK population of 24-year-olds, split 52% - 48% - but still the number of female drivers compared to male drivers is miniscule.

The distinction between genders is even fewer when looking at figures for UK provisional driving licenses, however, it would appear that more males make the jump to a full licence.

The gender gap among those aged above 80 is expectedly large, given how strictly defined gender roles were when that generation will have first learnt to drive.

And while there is not yet a suggestion of such, it could be the case that this gender gap again begins to emerge in the coming decades.

As less driving licenses are attained, the male-dominated occupations that require one (construction workers, delivery drivers etc.) is unlikely to be too harshly affected – whether that will be the case or not is yet to be seen.

Who are Millennials and Gen Z?

A millennial, also known as ‘Generation Y’, is anybody who was born between the years 1981 and 1996.

Gen Z consists of anybody born from 1997 and 2012.