Gen Z Has Mixed Feelings About Getting Behind the Wheel

Is Gen Z rushing to get their driver’s licenses?

Gen Z Has Mixed Feelings About Getting Behind the Wheel (Getty Images)

How many of you have your driver’s license?

It was reported that Gen Z is receiving driving licenses at lower rates than our predecessors. According to NBC Bay Area, recent stats (as of 2020) have shown that only 25% of Gen Z had a license at 16 versus 43% in the same age bracket towards the end of the millennial generation. Despite that, the fact remains that Gen Z is on the road less than other generations. Why are we seeing these changes?

Some discussed factors contributing to the decline are increased use of rideshare and easier access to goods and services that don't require getting there on your own. Examples are companies such as Uber, Lyft, and food delivery apps. I can admit to indulging in the occasional Doordash from time to time when faced with the obstacle of not being able to travel by car and get it myself. 

Another factor is a rising consciousness of the impact of motored travel on the environment. The effect of human-produced emissions has come into question more in recent years. Gen Z is often known as the generation that has been left with the reigns of climate change and for this reason, some choose to travel more sustainably in ways such as taking public transportation instead of driving. 

The cost of owning a car is becoming more and more inaccessible as well, as the expenses of a car were reaching an all-time high just in 2022. So even if Gen Z takes the initiative to get their license, owning a vehicle and paying insurance is proving harder.  Approximately 3% of a person's yearly expense goes to their being on the road and this, paired with skyrocketing car insurance prices, is a large amount for some.

A final rising reality is the anxiety that Gen Z is facing with the thought of getting on the road. To further explore this I talked to Kennedy Runge, 17, who has yet to get a driver's license due to anxieties.

YR Media: What specific factors have contributed to you not receiving your license?

Kennedy Runge: I’m most afraid of other drivers and messing up. Both thoughts make me anxious. It seems like it'll take a lot of time to learn how and I'm very busy.

YR: What would increase your chances of starting your process of getting a license?

KR: Having less homework. I want to spend my free time that I have already actually relaxing. So much of my time is taken up by homework and leftover classwork. If I had less time doing that, I would have more time and energy to put toward driving.

YR: Do you think other members of Gen Z should be getting their licenses?

KR: I do think so. It seems like a very helpful skill to have and it opens up more opportunities. If you need to go somewhere, you can just get in the car and go. Without a license, you have to worry about how to get places. Plus, if more of my own Gen Z friends get licenses, I have more people I can get rides from.

However, I also talked to Berit Wimmer, 17, who has had her license since she was 16 and she provided a different perspective.

YR: How has driving served as a convenience for you?

Berit Wimmer: My parents, especially when I’m with my mom, and she can't drive me places despite me needing or wanting to go somewhere. Additionally, by having my license I'm able to get to work as well as pick up my sister from after school and take her to the activities that she's signed up for.

YR: Was there ever a point where you were opposed to driving? And if so, how did you overcome that?

BW: No, not really! I always kinda knew that it would open up opportunities for me and be helpful so I was trying to get it as soon as possible.

YR: Would you recommend that other members of Gen Z get their licenses?

BW: If it's helpful for you, yeah! In my opinion, cars are awful and destroying our living environments, and when possible we should use public transit and walk. If you don't live in an extremely walkable city, or if it creates a larger benefit than damage, do it!!!! It's not as bad as you think.

I am getting my license at 18, and I feel generally encouraged by the adults around me to complete the task. A couple of my friends have started the process and others have already received their licenses. And even fewer have both a license and a car. Will the mentioned generational factors cause a shift when more Gen Z are on the road? We’ll have to see.

Siah Brawley (she/her) is a high school senior with an interest in media and culture. 

Edited by Nykeya Woods

Support the Next Generation of Content Creators
Invest in the diverse voices that will shape and lead the future of journalism and art.
donate now
Support the Next Generation of Content Creators
Invest in the diverse voices that will shape and lead the future of journalism and art.
donate now