If you’ve been out of the roads in recent years, you may have noticed that you are seeing fewer and fewer hatchbacks driving cautiously with a ‘L’ or ‘learner’ plate affixed to the back of their vehicle.
This belies a fundamental shift in our driving behaviours. Fewer and fewer young adults are learning to drive. In April 2021, the Guardian broke the story that the number of young adults with a full driving license has fallen to a recent low. In fact, there are 18% fewer teenagers with a license than there was ten years ago.
Driving a vehicle is a symbol of adulthood, and one of the rare milestones that mark the journey from age 16 to 21. A car can provide a young adult with immense freedom. So why are so few teenagers taking the plunge on driving lessons in the modern era?
Costs are rising
In 2006, driving lessons could be purchased for £20 per hour, making the full cost of a 30-lesson course just £600.
Currently, Red Driver Training, one of the largest driving instruction franchises in the UK, prices a 3-hour lesson at £105, which works out at £35 per hour. This amounts to a 75% increase over 15 years.
Over the same period, the minimum wage for a worker aged 18 - 20 has increased by only 47%. from £4.45 in 2006, to £6.56 in 2021.
The costs of being taught by a parent or older friend have also risen thanks to changes to the price of insurance policies for learner drivers.
Many find that the extra insurance costs of adding a child onto their policy make it prohibitively expensive to teach learners to drive. It can cost twice as much as using a professional tutor - some people are quoted up to £4,000. For these reasons, it’s essential to choose a competitive rate when comparing learner driver insurance to ensure that you’re receiving the best deal.
It’s no surprise that as lessons have become less affordable, students are choosing to delay learning until later in life (or deferring altogether).
Car ownership feels less essential
As our cities continue to urbanise, young adults move to universities or apartments that are within walking distance of their lecture halls or places of work. Meanwhile, the availability of buses and other public transport is often cited as a reason why 12% of young adults had no interest in obtaining a driving licence.
Ride-hailing apps such as Uber, and cheap supermarket delivery have also given young people a convenient way to use other vehicles without needing to own their own.
Looking into the horizon, the promise of self-driving cars will potentially further reduce the cost of taxis. Robo-taxis could operate just like taxis, but without the most expensive element - the taxi driver themselves. This may tempt occasional road users away from driving a car, but experts predict that the widespread adoption of self-driving cars could be as far as 10 years away depending on regulatory hurdles and any fatal setbacks during the initial rollout.
In summary, a combination of increasing costs and better alternatives are naturally leading to fewer parents choosing to support their teenager through driving lessons and is dampening the appetite for teens to get behind the wheel of a car.