ESP’s Easy Travel Index 2017: What can we learn about driving licence holding?

Passing your driving test and retiring from driving are two of the most important life events people face. These have the potential to dramatically shift your transport choices, which is why ESP wanted to find out more about patterns of driving licence holding in the ESP Easy Travel Index (ETI)…

Passing your driving test and retiring from driving are two of the most important life events people face.

These have the potential to dramatically shift your transport choices, which is why ESP wanted to find out more about patterns of driving licence holding in the ESP Easy Travel Index (ETI) within which 75% of respondents held a driving licence.

Where are the differences?

Historically male driving licence holding has always been higher than female

While the difference in proportions has gradually declined over time, the ETI shows it has not closed entirely – 82% of male respondents in the ETI held a licence compared to 69% of females.

Licence holding varies by age

84% of over 60s who participated in the ETI had a licence. This falls to 78% and 75% of 45-59 year olds and 30-44 year olds, respectively. The lowest licence holding is among 16-29 year olds, where only 61% of respondents reported holding a licence.

Most young people are planning to drive

Driving Declining licence holding among young people has gained significant research interest in recent years, and was a big influence on our drive to create NaviGoGo. However, the ETI results help to paint a deeper picture about the choices young people are making regarding driving; among the 16-29 year olds who do not have a licence, the majority (81%) are planning to obtain one in the next five years. This strongly suggests that while possession of a driving licence may be seen to be declining amongst young people, they are not planning to forego a licence entirely.

Licence holding varies by location

The ETI also highlights some noticeable geographical difference in licence holding. When looking at the individual nations, Scotland has the lowest average licence holding at 72%, while the Welsh, English and Irish averages are 75-76%. Across the 45 cities and towns included in the survey, Salford had the highest proportion of licence holding at 89%. This is significantly different to Stirling, the city with the lowest licence holding, at just 62%. This low licence holding in Stirling looks set to continue, because the City also has the lowest proportion of non-drivers planning to obtain a licence at 40%.

Future of Licencing

ESP has undertaken a series of projects exploring the changing mobility of older people, Car Freedom being one example. Through this project we learnt that many older people naturally begin to limit their own driving: perhaps by choosing not to drive at night, not to use motorways or only driving routes they already know.

In the ETI, we were keen to understand whether there was as appetite to reflect this change of usage through the introduction of restricted licences.  These could be used for people where medical conditions may be beginning to affect an individual’s ability to drive longer and more complex journeys but not to the extent where full revocation of their licence was required. This could act to enable longer, safe driving, compared to a forced retirement from driving altogether before it is entirely necessary.  In other words, allowing a phasing-out of driving instead of an abrupt cliff-edge to driving.

As such, we introduced a new question to the 2017 ETI, “Would you support the issuance of driving licences to people over the age of 70 which restrict driving (on medical grounds) to a limited geographical area?”.  42% of respondents felt this was something they would support. Although an additional 28% had no opinion on it.

Perhaps because of their experience of having a restricted licence in the form of Provisional Licences, young people (16-29 years) were most supportive of the idea, with 46% saying they would support it. This fell to 31% of over 60s, perhaps feeling that this would be an unwieldy policy tool which may be unfairly applied rather than a positive extension of safe driving.

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