We have noted before that people are driving more miles and buying more cars and trucks, and wondered whatever happened to Peak Car? But a new report from Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute shows that fewer people are actually getting licences. Furthermore, the only group that is actually gaining licensed drivers are the baby boomers, not exactly a growth industry.
This is, I think the most interesting table in the report, showing how that important rite of passage, getting a drivers licence at 16, is not that big a deal anymore, down 47%.. And the only sector that has grown are the geezers, the 55 years and older gang, with the biggest growth by far among those over 70. Driving is becoming an old man's (and woman's) activity.
Whenever we write about these changes, people invariably comment that "it's the economy, stupid" or "wait until they have babies and children to drive around"- but in the last three years, while the economy has got stronger and unemployment has dropped, and gas has been cheaper than ever, the percentage of 20 to 34 year olds having drivers licences is still dropping.
So it's really nice of the governments to keep investing in highway expansions and making life easier for all those aging boomers in the suburbs, but it makes very little sense. The fact of the matter is that the roads are being taken over by baby boomers and senior citizens, when we should be planning our infrastructure for the younger people who are going to be around a bit longer, and who are simply not driving as much.