Cars have long played a significant social and economic role. The benefits of car ownership are many – driver’s feelings of independence and freedom probably being among the top ones. However, we’re witnessing a slow, yet steady decline in new driver license. This seems to be a global trend – it’s not restricted to certain areas or countries, so it makes sense to believe that it’s a generational thing. But why is this the case?
Statistics show that Millennials – people born from the 1980s onwards – are less likely to take the responsibility of possessing a car than a member of their parents’ generation when they were the same age.
As a typical bicycle-riding, environmentally-conscious, technology-obsessed Millennial, I can definitely relate. Owning a vehicle has just never been a priority for me (although I’m well in my thirties) and I can’t say that my life suffers in any respect, especially since I live in an urban area.
’Spoilt’ for choice
Millennials are moving where the jobs are, and the jobs are in big cities. Apart from public transportation, cities offer other ways of getting around. An increasing number of people choose to cycle (reasonable distances), which makes sense – it’s cheap, it keeps you fit, reduces stress and exposes you to a healthy dose of sunlight. In addition, it’s better for the environment. Still, if you’re a parent, running around with shopping bags and your kids on a bicycle is virtually impossible. Many people then tend to get a vehicle and usually opt for a used car, which is a financially sound decision. Since traffic jams and the lack of parking spaces are a nuisance we all have to deal with on a daily basis, carsharing and ridesharing services provided via apps like Uber, Lyft or BlaBlaCar are convenient alternatives to other types of transportation.
The rise of technology
Attitudes towards cars have changed a lot during the last decade, especially due to the rise of technology. First off, cars are no longer perceived as a symbol but rather as just a mere vehicle that will get you from point A to point B. That’s a major turn from the point of view of, for instance, my father, a baby-boomer who would always regard a family without a car as financially-challenged or, even worse, extremely weird. Nowadays, people rather spend their dollars on the newest type of smartphone or state-of-the-art flat screen smart TV. On the other hand, modern technologies heavily influence all sorts of communication between people, especially the young. When we think of teenage movies from the sixties and seventies, images of groups of youngsters rushing in their cars to get away from the presence of adults and get some privacy. Now we’re able to access any person and any service in the world without the need of ever stepping out of our bedroom. Millennials use technology to both connect with and distance from their family and friends.
Can’t afford it, won’t buy it
Finally, let’s face it. Many young people can’t afford to buy a car. If they’re lucky enough to have a job, they’re usually earning just to get by. In such situations the cost of a car with all the additional expenses – for petrol, repairs, and maintenance – is too much to handle with the money that they make, especially taking into consideration the alternatives. Millennials are the first generation in the last hundred years to, on average, earn less than their parents. That’s why they might, occasionally, ask their mom or dad for a lift.
To sum up, economic factors together with the change in the perception of communication and mobility have led to a significant drop in the number of people who drive on the global level. Of course, there are still people who consider cars essential in their everyday lives. Long-term consequences are yet to be seen, but hopefully, this tendency will have some positive ecological effects.
Photo by Bruce Mars from Pexels