The number of young people taking the driving test has dropped by almost a fifth in the past five years, according to The Motor Schools Association of Great Britain (MSA).
The number of 17–19 year olds taking the practical driving test has fallen by roughly 18% since 2007, while the number of people in their 20s taking the test has dropped by more than 10%.
The MSA also highlights that even among young people who have passed the test, the number with access to a car has fallen, while those who do have a car appear to be driving fewer miles. The fall has been sharper among young men than young women.
Similar figures have been reported in other developing countries including the US, Germany, and Japan.
The MSA cites the global financial crisis as the largest single factor behind the numbers. Youth unemployment has increased sharply in Britain, while even those in employment who were born between 1985 and 95 are seeing their incomes falling faster than any other age group.
This situation has been exacerbated by the rising cost of motoring, with higher fuel prices and insurance premiums for young drivers.
A spokesman for the DfT admitted that the fall had been noted in Whitehall, and the DSA was keeping its options open as to how this would impact on its operations in the future.
The spokesman said: “It’s too easy to say this decrease is solely down to young people being put off learning to drive because lesson prices are high, or fuel is too expensive.
“There has been a huge rise in the number of people opting to live in city centre locations, where possibly there is less need for a car as public transport availability is good, or because a lack of parking space makes car ownership impractical.”
Social media experts also believe that the increasing use of Facebook and other internet sites makes it easier for young people to stay in touch online, rather than making physical journeys.