New report: 'Young Adults' Licence Behaviour' in the UK - RAC Foundation

New report: 'Young Adults' Licence Behaviour' in the UK - RAC Foundation

A new report entitled, 'Young Adults' License Behaviour - Holding and Driving Behaviour in the UK' written by the RAC foundation makes some interesting examinations on the changing trends in youth's lives. Today’s young adults are experiencing a delayed transition to adulthood. Many young people are staying in education longer, entering employment later and making the transition to residential independence, partnership and parenthood at older ages.


rac foundation

A massive change of social dimensions relate to are questioned in this report. Since the mid-1990s there has been a decline in car use amongst young adults, especially young men. This report presents the individual, household and local level characteristics that are affecting the driving behaviour of 17-34 year olds in the UK.

The findings are fascinating, not only because they help explain the current situation, but because they point towards how car use may change in the future as young people move into employment, form families and change their residential status. If, as this report suggests, increased levels of education and female employment lead to greater licence-holding among women, car use on the roads tells us something about what is happening in society, which is of interest and relevance beyond transport. Equally, increases in educational enrolment and unemployment, or a rise in the proportion of young adults living in the parental home, may be associated with a decline in the proportion holding a full driving licence.

wcy youth with yours
What are the changes in young adults' behaviour towards holding a licence and driving behaviour? This report studies those trends.

This report reminds us that transport generally, and car use in particular, provides a means to an end. There is much talk about reducing car use, encouraging modal shift and meeting environmental, social, safety and economic policy ends. But it is too easy to forget that how people travel offers a window into how society is operating, both now and in the future.

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.

young drivers
New studies show that the level of education, individual income and living arrangements impact on the the quantity of licence holders in the UK.

  • 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.


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.


Young Adults Licence-Holding - Full Report
Young Adults Licence-Holding - Summary


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