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More Generations of Americans Steering Clear of Driving

Man smiles while riding The Rapid.

Many Americans are opting out of driving. And before you jump to conclusions, it isn’t just millennials. In fact, the trend putting down the car keys is gaining the most traction with middle-aged adults.

“Over the past several decades, particularly for the youngest age groups, there’s been a pretty large decrease in the number of people who have been getting driver’s licenses,” says Brandon Schoettle, a researcher at the University of Michigan.

Schoettle led a new study published by University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute that studied the proportion of people with driver’s licenses over the years.

According to the study, only 69 percent of 19-year-olds have a driver’s license in 2014, compared with almost 90 percent in 1983. Over the past three decades, the percentage of 20-somethings with driver’s licenses has also fallen by 13 percent and fewer Americans in their 30s and 40s now have driver’s licenses.

Schoettle says now this trend is not just limited to teenagers and those in their 20s and one of the main reasons more Americans of all ages are going without driver’s licenses.

“There’s been a shift publicly for people to move to things like public transportation that just wasn’t there back in the ’80s and ’90s, partly because there’s sometimes better public transportation in certain areas than there was a few decades ago, and a little more concern about the environment,” he says.

 Study findings:

–  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 example, the percentages for 20- to 24-year-olds in 1983, 2008, 2011, and 2014 were 91.8%, 82.0%, 79.7%, and 76.7%, respectively.

–  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 example, the percentages for 60- to 64-year-olds in 1983, 2008, 2011, and 2014 were 83.8%, 95.9%, 92.7%, and 92.1%, respectively.

–  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 percentages for 1983, 2008, 2011, and 2014 were 55.0%, 78.4%, 79.2%, and 79.0%, respectively.

Read the full article about this study on NPR.

Written by The Rapid

The Rapid (Interurban Transit Partnership) is the authority that provides a variety of public transportation services for the Grand Rapids metro area and beyond. It is organized and operates under Michigan Public Act 196 of 1986.