Drivers Wanted: Share of Young and Old with Driver’s Licenses is Declining as New Car Sales Rise

2015 was a record year for new car sales in the U.S. (17.5M), but new research shows a decline in younger drivers getting their drivers licenses. A University of Michigan study of state driver’s licenses shows a sharp decline over the past two decades among people under 25 years of age getting their driver’s licenses. Drivers wanted, the share of young and old with driver’s licenses is declining as new car sales rise.

The drop signals high-schoolers and college-age Americans are less interested in getting behind the wheel than previous generations. And the change is spreading to their parents and grandparents. According to the study:

  • 77% of people between the age of 20 and 24 were licensed to drive in 2014, down from about 80% in 2011 and 92% in 1983.
  • Less than a quarter of 16-year-olds today have their licenses, down from 46% in 1983
  • 60% of 18-year-olds have one, down from 80% in 1983.
  • The number of Americans in their 50s to late 60s who have their licenses, is down by roughly 3% since 2008.

But does that mean there will be fewer cars on the road and fewer windshields to repair? Not necessarily.

Several automakers have responded by sinking big investments in autonomous-vehicle projects (self-driving cars) and partnerships with car-hailing services, like Sidecar technologies, Uber and Lyft. General Motors invested $500 million in Lyft in January and plans to use data gathered on driver behavior to deploy a network of self-driving vehicles through the ride-sharing service.

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