Fewer young, but more elderly, have driver's license

December 2, 2011

A lower proportion of young people have a driver's license today compared to their counterparts in the early 1980s—a trend not found among older age groups, a University of Michigan study shows.

In 1983, a third of all licensed in the United States were under age 30. Today, only about 22 percent of drivers are twentysomethings or teenagers. Further, more than half of all drivers in 1983 were under age 40, but today that number has fallen to less than 40 percent.

"It is possible that the availability of virtual contact through electronic means reduces the need for actual contact among young people," said Michael Sivak, research professor at the U-M Transportation Research Institute. "Furthermore, some young people feel that driving interferes with texting and other electronic communication."

In a new study in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention, Sivak and UMTRI colleague Brandon Schoettle examined the changes in the United States from 1983 to 2008 in the percentage of persons with driver's licenses as a function of age.

They found that not only account for a lower percentage of today's total , but that young drivers comprise a smaller portion of their age group as a whole, compared to 1983.

About 87 percent of 19-year-olds in 1983 had their licenses, but 25 years later, that percentage had dropped to about 75 percent. Other teen driving groups have also declined: 18-year-olds fell from 80 percent in 1983 to 65 percent in 2008, 17-year-olds decreased from 69 percent to 50 percent, and 16-year-olds slipped from 46 percent to 31 percent.

Drivers in their 20s and 30s also saw their ranks fall as a percentage of their age group population—down nearly 10 percentage points for twentysomethings and down about five percentage points for the thirtysomethings.

On the other hand, licensed drivers among older (those over 40) have increased their numbers, as both a percentage of their population and as a percentage of total licensed drivers.

In 2008, those 70 and older comprised the largest group of drivers on the road—more than 10 percent—slightly higher than those in their 40s or 50s. Licensed drivers as a percentage of their age group population have risen for all groups over age 45 since 1983.

In 1983, between 84 percent and 88 percent of people in their late 50s and early 60s had a driver's license. Now those percentages are in the 95-percent range. The change is even more pronounced for seniors. Today, about 94 percent of those age 65-69 and 78 percent of those 70 and older have their licenses, up from 79 percent and 55 percent, respectively, in 1983.

"Overall, the future evolution of these changes will have potentially major implications for future transportation and its consequences," Sivak said. "Specifically, licensing changes will likely affect the future amount and nature of transportation, transportation mode selected, vehicles purchased, the safety of travel and the environmental consequences of travel."

Explore further: Road fatalities among young and old much improved, but still high

Related Stories

Road fatalities among young and old much improved, but still high

October 26, 2011
Road deaths among young adults and seniors are down nearly 60 percent since 1968, but they still have the highest road fatality rates among all age groups, say University of Michigan researchers.

Fatal crashes in the US: Fewer Canadian drivers under the influence

October 18, 2011
A new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy and Columbia University finds alcohol-related fatal motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. are much lower among drivers with Canadian licenses ...

Recommended for you

Sugar not so sweet for mental health

July 27, 2017
Sugar may be bad not only for your teeth and your waistline, but also your mental health, claimed a study Thursday that was met with scepticism by other experts.

Could insufficient sleep be adding centimeters to your waistline?

July 27, 2017
Adults in the UK who have poor sleep patterns are more likely to be overweight and obese and have poorer metabolic health, according to a new study.

Vitamin E-deficient embryos are cognitively impaired even after diet improves

July 27, 2017
Zebrafish deficient in vitamin E produce offspring beset by behavioral impairment and metabolic problems, new research at Oregon State University shows.

The role of dosage in assessing risk of hormone therapy for menopause

July 27, 2017
When it comes to assessing the risk of estrogen therapy for menopause, how the therapy is delivered—taking a pill versus wearing a patch on one's skin—doesn't affect risk or benefit, researchers at UCLA and elsewhere ...

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Nanobanano
1 / 5 (1) Dec 02, 2011
It's because they can't afford to own an automobile, or much of anything else for that matter.

The cost of a new car by the time you count insurance...

the cost of education is as much or more than a 30 year MORTGAGE on a new 3 bedroom/2 bath home was 20 to 30 years ago.

Basicly, young people are spending like half their life income on automobiles and the other half on education, because you gotta figure that 4 year degree is obsolete after 4 years, so then they get screwed anyway and have to go back to school again...

You must have a cell phone and internet to get a job anyway, so of course they want that for the job and social needs, and it's a hell of a lot less expensive than a car.

It's going to be a damn vassal state for sure in another decade or two at this rate.

Your college football coach gets paid $3 million per year, and they paid Newt Gingrich $60k to make one speech. Mom and dad are lucky if they ever made 60k combined in a year...

That's slavery.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.