Teens putting the brakes on driving
Why millennials around the world are steering clear of getting their driver’s licence.
Reuben Cumming doesn’t drive. The 19-year-old VCA music composition student plays in several bands and lives at home with his parents in Seddon, in Melbourne’s inner west. He catches the tram to uni and, when he needs to get his gear to a gig, he relies on friends or his dad (a “car-obsessed” collector of Renaults) for transport.
At first, it was just a “laziness thing”, he says. But, as time has gone on, he’s built more reasons for not getting behind the wheel. “But as time has gone on I’ve built more reasons for avoiding [driving].”
Reuben is not alone. A recent Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey revealed a 6.2 per cent drop in men aged 18 and 19 getting their driver’s licence, down from 71 per cent in 2012 to 64.8 per cent in 2016. (Young women of the same age are catching up, increasing from 60.2 per cent in 2012 to 63.6 per cent in 2016.)
For years, learning to drive has been a rite of passage. But the decline in young people with driver’s licences is now a trend seen in the US, Canada, Sweden, Norway, the UK and Germany.
A 2015 RACV report notes that common reasons among young people for not getting their licence, both here and overseas, included the difficulty of the licensing process, being “too busy”, the expense of owning and maintaining a vehicle, their ability to rely on others for lifts, and a general preference for walking, cycling or using public transport.
Much of this rings true for Reuben but he has other reasons, too. “The scariest one is that I’ve been faced with the reality of deaths on the road,” he says, explaining that two people from his social circle died in separate road accidents in the past year. “I’m a daydreamer sometimes, so I worry that wouldn’t go very well with being in charge of a vehicle.”
He says most of his friends don’t drive either, with many of them citing environmental concerns as a key reason to avoid getting behind the wheel.