Is Gen Z Not Driving – Changing Interests or Familiar Trend?



Watching your teenager get behind the wheel for the first time is nerve–racking—we get it. But what was once considered a major milestone may not be quite as revered today. As young driver trends have shifted over the past few years, studies show Gen Z Americans (those born between 1997 and 2012) are waiting longer to get their licenses.

Is Gen Z Not Driving?

Driving hits different for today’s youth. Researchers from the University of Michigan found that, in the 1980s, nearly half of all 16-year-olds were driving. According to The Washington Post, by 1997, roughly 43% of those 16 years of age, and 62% of 17-year-olds had their licenses. But by 2020, those rates dropped to just 25% and 45%, respectively.

These decreases are not unique to Gen Z, though, as one of the largest declines in young drivers occurred between 2001 and 2009 with millennials.

So, is this decreased interest in driving going to last? Gen Z is still too young to answer this question.

But professor Ming Zhang of the University of Texas at Austin may have the answer in his recently published study on changing driving trends, especially the behaviors of millennials. As that generation has aged into adulthood, the gap has closed, his research found. However, adult millennials on average still drive about 8% less than earlier generations.

Why the Decreased Interest?

The thrill of your first car and the freedom to go wherever you want have always been driving factors, so to speak, in pushing teenagers to get their licenses. So what’s changed?

We’ve changed. In today’s digital world there’s less need to drive. Thanks to mobile technology and delivery apps, even tasks like getting your favorite food delivered to your door are easier than ever. As a result, sitting behind a wheel can be a lot less appealing when anything you want is just a click away.

Rideshare apps are incredibly popular. Speaking of your smartphone, you can easily summon a private ride with just a few clicks. This might also explain why members of Gen Z may be shying away from driving. According to the Pew Research Center, 51% of Americans aged 18-29 have used a rideshare service, compared to only 24% of those aged 50+.

Urban lifestyles. Our country’s urban culture is always growing. Many folks are avoiding moving out of cities, which means there’s often less need for a vehicle, as amenities are closer and public transportation is a viable option.

Environmental concerns. As technology advances and information is more readily available, younger generations have shown more concern for their individual footprints.

Rising costs. Inflation is no secret. Price hikes are making people more cautious about spending money. Owning a car is an expense that many see as a luxury, so they often make efforts to save on vehicle costs, maintenance, gas, insurance, etc.

ERIE’S Here To Help

Whenever your teenager is ready to step behind the wheel, ERIE is here to help! We offer several possible discounts to help offset insurance costs:

  • Youthful Driver Discount applies to unmarried drivers under 21 who live with their parents.1
  • For young drivers who participate in accredited driver training courses, ERIE offers a Driving Training Discount.2
  • A College Student Discount may be available for students living away from home without a vehicle.3
  • Unmarried young drivers may also qualify for a Youthful Driver Longevity Discount, which gives credit for consecutive years spent insured under another’s ERIE auto policy (usually a parent or guardian).4 Young drivers in Virginia and Wisconsin can also qualify for an additional discount of up to 20% by completing teenSMART. Don’t forget to notify your Agent whenever a member of your household gets their license—even if they plan on waiting before they drive or have their own insurance policy.

Want to learn more? Contact your local ERIE agent to discuss your coverage or get a no-obligation quote today.


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