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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Boomers: Last driving generation?

Yahoo News reported that people under 55 are not as interested in driving as previous generations were.

From Yahoo News:
The percentage of young people with a driver’s license has plunged during the last several years, according to a new study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. In 2008, for instance, 65.4% of 18-year-olds had a driver’s license. Now, 60.1% do. The trend has been underway for decades but seems to have intensified since the recession that began at the end of 2007.
In all age groups from 16 to 69, the percentage of Americans with a license has fallen since 2008. Above 70, it has inched up from 78.4% to 79%.
The percentage of people holding valid drivers licenses in 2014 dropped from 1983 by every age group under 55.

It increased for everyone 55 and older. That would be everyone born before 1960, which includes most of the baby boomers (which officially covers everyone born between 1946 and 1964, inclusive).

Several factors come into play. Many states imposed restrictions on licensing for teenagers in those intervening years. Also, today's retirees are healthier than retirees 33 years ago, which means they keep driving. The recession, too, plays a role as percentage of drivers fell for every group except those 70 and older, which increased.

While Yahoo said car companies are terrified of this, I doubt it. The nation's population keeps increasing and despite tighter restrictions on driving -- at least for those legally in the United States -- the customer base for cars keeps expanding. Right now the population of the United States  Europe has 473 passenger cars per 1000 people; the United States has a world-beating 769. Saturated market? Perhaps, but replacement of cars in the United States still makes for a large market. Sales last year were 17,470,659 passenger cars -- a record.

On the horizon, of course, are self-driving cars. I am saving for mine. Hopefully it will be voice-activated and we all know what voice command we want the most: "Make it so."


  1. Two driving experiences of note.

    1. In DC on 9/11, I had taken the train into work. Well, they shut down the trains. Bonus, I could get near my car/home by taking the METRO, i.e., travel underground past the two top targets in all the world during an enemy attack. Yea, public transportation.

    As Katrina bore down in 2005, I was forced along with thousands of others to make a run for it. Bonus, I didn't have to hope some corrupt politician would send a bus. Yea, private transportation.

    If you don't drive, you are leaving yourself at the mercy of panicked politicians who have only ever looked out for themselves. Oh, and they'll have a car and driver.

  2. Without a job, it's hard to afford a car.

  3. Maybe it's not lack of interest but lack of money. From the Yahoo article:

    "Many millennials lack the cash for such a big purchase anyway, since the job market for twenty-somethings is still soft and the average student-debt burden is near a record high. And many millennials who do drive prefer leasing over buying, since there’s no down payment and you can upgrade your ride more often."

    These days few new cars are priced under $15K, and those that are affordable tend to be compact cars having no appeal to a young person. Even used cars these days cost more than what a lot of young college-bound high school kids (or their cash-strapped parents) can afford. Plus, there are the down steam effects of the government Cash for Clunkers program that removed a whole slew of cars from the eventual used car market.

  4. Who needs a job? If the government gives you a place to live, pays the utilities, feeds you, provides a cell phone, and throws in some walking around money, why wouldn't they give you a car? And, until self-driving cars are widely available, throw in a chauffeur as well? Just wonderin'. - Elric

  5. Hard to drive and be one the "smart" phone. If they gotta choose, well, The car doesn't update as fast as farce book.

  6. If you're illegal, you don' need no stinkin' driver's license.