Young adults and driving in the UK 24 Dec 2014

Since the mid-1990s there has been a decline in car use among young adults, especially among young men. This decrease is associated with both a reduction in the proportion of young adults who hold a full driving licence, and a decline in the average annual number of car miles driven. It is important to understand the factors associated with young adults’ driving behaviour, since this age group may be leading a trend away from car use.

The aim of this report - by Ann Berrington & Julia Mikolai - is to examine the individual, household, and local area level characteristics associated with driving behaviour in the UK among young adults aged 17–34. Four dimensions of driving behaviour are investigated: whether a young adult holds a full UK driving licence; the number of miles driven in the past 12 months (among those who hold a full UK driving licence);the mode of transport used to commute to work; and the difficulties that young adults report when commuting to work by car.

Key findings:

  • In total, 65% of males aged 17–34 and 58% of females aged 17–34 held a full UK driving licence in 2009–10.
  • Net of the effect of other factors (in other words when these have beentaken account of), the most important predictors of licence-holding among men and women aged 17–34 are age, area type, level of education, individual income and living arrangement. Other variables found to have a significant association, net of other factors, are economic activity status and housing tenure.
  • Young men and women living in London are significantly less likely to hold a full UK licence than are those living in other urban areas. Those who live in rural areas are the most likely to hold a full UK licence.
  • Individual income has a positive association with the likelihood of licenceholding, especially for women.
  • Even after controlling for other variables (including income and economic activity status), those with intermediate (i.e. GCSE) or advanced (i.e. A levels or a degree) education are more likely to hold a licence than those with no qualifications. This educational gradient is far steeper for young women than for men.
  • Once other factors are held constant, employed young adults are more likely to hold a full UK licence than those who are unemployed / economically inactive. Additionally, being a full-time student is associated with a lower likelihood of holding a full UK licence among men, but not among women.
  • Once other socioeconomic characteristics are controlled for in a multiple regression, living in the parental home is associated with a slightly lower likelihood of licence-holding for both men and women.
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