Sweeping changes to social-economic conditions and living circumstances are the main factors behind a marked drop in car ownership among young people over the past 25 years.
These are the key findings outlined in a study carried out by academics from the University of the West of England and the University of Oxford, on behalf of the Department for Transport.
The study says a rise in lower paid and less secure jobs, a decline in home ownership and increased levels of participation in higher education are among the trends that have influenced the transport decisions of 17-29 year olds since 1990.
Growing urbanisation, the high cost of driving and a preference for young people to communicate online – rather than face-to-face – are other contributory factors.
Driving licensing among young people peaked in 1992/4, at which time 48% of 17-20 year olds and 75% of 21-29 year olds held a driving licence. By 2014, these figures had fallen to 29% of 17-20 year olds and 63% of 21-29 year olds.
In 2010-14, only 37% of 17-29 year olds reported driving a car in a typical week, compared with 46% in 1995-99.
The researchers say the general trend has been for each cohort of young people since the early 1990s to own and use cars less than the preceding cohort, and for the growth in car use with age to also be at a lower rate.
The study also found that those who start to drive later, drive less when they do start. This effect is even being seen among people who are now in their forties.
Dr Kiron Chatterjee, associate professor of Travel Behaviour at the University of the West of England, who led the study, said decreasing numbers of young people in the UK taking up motoring is the ‘new norm’ and it is ‘difficult to envisage’ a return to a car ownership boom such as the one witnessed between the 1960s and 1980s.
Dr Chatterjee said: “It is important that policies in transport and other sectors reflect the fall in the proportion of young people with a driving licence or access to a car.
“While the change in young people’s travel behaviour is to be welcomed in that it aligns with aims to reduce the adverse impacts of transport use, such as air pollution and carbon emissions, it is important that young people have alternatives to the car for getting to education, employment and social destinations.
“Otherwise there could be damaging impacts on their life opportunities and wellbeing.”