We pulled up to a traffic light not far from the offices of Automobile magazine, maneuvering to the right to get a better view of the 1980s-era Mazda RX-7. Undeniably, it’s a sweet car. At the wheel appeared to be a relatively young man, glancing down at his phone while awaiting the signal to change. Unfortunately, that’s an all-too-frequent habit for Generations X and Y.
Judge him or not, that’s a common sight at intersections around the country, and at least this guy had a veritable enthusiast sports car and a license to drive it—bright spots for the world of car buffs, which has watched young consumers delay getting their driver’s licenses—if they ever bother to get them at all.
Now, a study released in August by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute casts a light on the decline in driving among young people. The institute surveyed people without a driver’s license ranging from 18 to 39-years-old, and 37 percent said they were “too busy” or “lacking time” to get a license. Thirty-two percent said simply owning and maintaining a vehicle is too expensive, while 31 percent claimed they were able to get transportation from others.
Less prominent, but still notable: 22 percent said they preferred to bike or walk rather than drive, 17 percent said they use public transportation and nine percent were concerned about the environmental impact of driving.
Chillingly for automakers and enthusiasts, 22 percent said they never plan to get a driver’s license, though 69 percent do expect to get one in the next five years.
Though the study didn’t dig too deeply beyond the reasons given, researchers suggest the common response of being too busy points to a change in priorities among young people—driving doesn’t mean freedom like it did for previous generations which took to the open road to connect with their friends—something obtainable now via the Internet. Others reasons, including preferring to bike, walk or use public means, are supported by U.S. Census data that point to an increased trend of urban living for Millennials.