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Gen Z cites anxiety and fear as reasons for massive drop in driver's licenses
Photo by: Peter Titmuss/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Gen Z cites anxiety and fear as reasons for massive drop in driver's licenses

Generation Z is getting driver's licenses as a rate far below previous generations, according to a report by the Washington Post, which says that fear, anxiety, finances, and even environmental concerns are contributing factors to the decrease.

Gen Z, which is generally considered to be those born between 1996 and 2012, are becoming drivers at a much lower rate than generations before.

In 1997, 43% of those age 16 had driver's licenses, and 62% of 17-year-olds had driver's licenses. But in 2020, those marks have fallen to 25% and 45%.

For 20- to 25-year-olds, in 1997 the rate was at nearly 90%, compared to 2020, when the number went down to 80%.

According to Green Car Congress via Fox News, in 1983, 80% of 18-year-old Americans had licenses, but in 2018, only 61% did. The 16-year-olds with licenses also dropped by nearly 20% in that time frame.

A 2012 report from the Frontier Group and the U.S. Public Interest Research group says that between 2001 and 2009, miles driven by young people decreased by 24%.

Noreen McDonald, a professor of urban planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, tells the Washington Post that the common phases of life such as getting a license, or moving out of one's parent's house, “are consistently getting later."

Anecdotes acquired by the outlet are very telling. For example, Corr from New York told the paper regarding a driver's license, "I just felt like I didn’t need it,” despite taking driver's ed.

“When I was learning with my parents, a lot of times I would end up crying because I was so stressed out,” said Madison, 23, from Washington, who now lives in Seattle and uses public transit or ride sharing.

"I’m in favor of having more public transport for environmental reasons,” says Louisa of D.C.

USA Today took similar strides in 2021, seeking to find reasons for the drop in licenses for the younger generation.

“That's it, I'm done. Don't like it,” Kat, a 16-year-old from New Jersey, told her parents just 10 minutes into driving lessons on a golf cart.

"I’m an anxious person and driving does seem intimidating to me. I’ve tried it and it just feels very hard," said Celeste, a high school senior from Boston.

What do teen drivers want? "A big screen,” says Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports while speaking to USA Today.

Rushbrook said teens want to stay "connected in a safe way," adding that vehicles are "an extension of their iPhone or their screen device, they want to stay connected and bring their music and everything else with them into the car.”

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Andrew Chapados

Andrew Chapados

Andrew Chapados is a writer focusing on sports, culture, entertainment, gaming, and U.S. politics. The podcaster and former radio-broadcaster also served in the Canadian Armed Forces, which he confirms actually does exist.
@andrewsaystv →