Since 2008, a steep decline in driver’s licenses

If you read the news, there is a growing sense that car ownership as we know it is going to be thing of the past. The rise of Uber and other car sharing services has made not owning a car an option for a good portion of the population, especially those who are (big) city dwellers. And today there is some complementary data that society might be moving in that direction. Fewer and fewer people are getting driver’s licences, according to Federal Highway Administration data analyzed by Michael Sivak, Ph.D., Director, Sustainable Worldwide Transportation at University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.

While it doesn’t necessarily mean that people aren’t buying cars, but if fewer people are getting licences, it is not totally crazy to assume that fewer people are driving (or will be driving) and thus not buying (or won’t be buying) cars. Sivak and his colleague Brandon Schoettle looked at data from the Federal Highway Administration spanning 1983 to 2014 and here is what they found about licensed drivers as a percentage of their age-group population:

  • For 16- through 44-year-olds, there was a continuous decrease in the percentage of persons with a driver’s license for the years examined.
  • For 45- through 69-year-olds, there was an increase in the percentage of persons with a driver’s license from 1983 to 2008, followed by a continuous decrease from 2008 to 2014.
  • For those 70 years and older, there was an increase in the percentage of persons with a driver’s license from 1983 to 2008, followed by an increase from 2008 to 2011, and a decrease from 2011 to 2014.

The declines have actually accelerated since 2008 — the year when our country had a financial meltdown and left many people scrambling to carve a living. More recently, car ownership is giving way to the idea of car-sharing or car sharing services such as Uber. Here are two relevant charts from What and Schoettler’s analysis.

DriverDeclinesSivakReport DriverDeclinesSivakReport2

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