The car in 2023 No paradise for young people

The car in 2023 | No paradise for young people –

In Quebec, as elsewhere in the western world, the proportion of 16- to 24-year-olds who have a driver’s license has declined over the past 30 years. Does the car appeal to young people less than before? In part maybe, but the numbers are more nuanced. And also the attitude of young people towards driving.

Posted at 7:00 p.m. Updated at 7:00 p.m.


“In an ideal world, I would never have to drive a tank. Jérémy Vidal has a degree in Civil Engineering and works in a custom build workshop in Carignan, a suburb of Montreal.

Without a driver’s license, he travels there by bus from Saint-Lambert, where he lives. The 24-year-old is a harsh critic of American car culture. “That’s not a viable solution in the long run,” he says, referring to the countless construction sites, the mountains of money that go into road maintenance, the dangerous traffic for pedestrians and cyclists… “I understand that it’s mandatory in the region.” have a car But in the city I don’t get it. »

The car in 2023 No paradise for young people

The phenomenon has been observed in the western world for twenty years. Millennials (born between 1984 and 1996) and now also the Zers (born between 1997 and 2012) are less likely than their elders to get a driver’s license.

Quebec is no exception to this trend. According to the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec, the proportion of 16-24 year olds in possession of a driver’s license or probationary license was 61% in 1992, compared to 54% in 2022.

1684032392 189 The car in 2023 No paradise for young people

Surprisingly, young men are primarily responsible for the decline. For what ? Sociologist Yoann Demoli recalls that it’s already frowned upon for a man to be “driven by a woman.” Conversely, today’s young women are encouraged to get their driver’s license.

In recent years, the media has reported on a generation gap: with the introduction of carpooling, young people are no longer attracted to cars they consider too polluting and expensive.

“Unlike previous generations, young people do not see the car as a means of freedom or a crucial step in their lives,” says a recent Washington Post article. “The driving license has lost its luster,” was the headline in the French magazine Le Point in 2021. “The car is no longer a dream,” announced La Presse in 2017.

But do young people really shy away from a driver’s license out of disinterest? According to experts, the reality is more differentiated.

money, a brake

“This reduction of the driver’s license was, in my opinion, misinterpreted,” immediately notes the French sociologist Yoann Demoli.

First, young people study longer and start families later than previous generations, the expert notes. Could it be that they are just less keen on owning a car? It’s a hypothesis.

Money can also be a barrier to obtaining a permit. In Quebec, the January 2023 driving course cost was set at $1,024. “That’s a lot when I have a lot of other things to pay for beforehand,” said Vanessa San Martin, 29.

She has lived in Sherbrooke for five years, where she works in the kitchen of a ramen restaurant. If she doesn’t have a driver’s license, it’s mostly a question of money. “Even after you get your driver’s license, you still have a million other things to pay for: insurance, driver’s license, license plate…” she enumerates.

A 2020 German study examined the mobility attitudes and behaviors of young people according to their social background. His insights?

Young adults from vulnerable socioeconomic backgrounds are constrained in their means of transportation (the car is one of the most expensive), while those from the middle class continue to aspire to a car-centric suburban life.

Among the young people who show less attachment to the car are mainly people from affluent backgrounds, who live in large cities and have a high level of education.

fear of driving

Arielle Desgroseilliers, 23, started taking driving lessons a few years ago before giving it all up. That’s because she has an “uncontrollable” fear of driving. “Before my practical class, I didn’t sleep the night before because I was scared of driving,” she admits.

Young people today are far more aware of the dangers of road traffic than their grandparents’ generation was before wearing seat belts was compulsory, notes Yoann Demoli.

Arielle was born and raised in Montreal. She never felt the urgent need to own a car. To get around, the student resorts to public transport, walking, or occasionally carpooling. “Maybe in Montreal I look less for ways to combat this fear because it doesn’t slow me down on a daily basis,” she muses aloud.

Few options

It would be different in the remote suburbs or in the region. Without the many opportunities offered by big cities, there is no doubt that many young people without a license will one day be forced to take one.

Jérémy Vidal came to the same conclusion. The young man had taken his driving lessons during the pandemic but never sat the test for personal reasons. If he wants to fulfill his dream of becoming a teacher at a construction school, he must first gain experience on construction sites, which is unthinkable without permission. “That’s unfortunate, because I’d rather not,” he admits.

After all these years, Vanessa San Martin is also considering taking driving lessons. She wants to start a family with her spouse (also without permission). “I don’t want kids until at least one of us gets our driver’s license,” she says.

Contradictory attitudes

In short, we can undoubtedly speak of a certain “dissatisfaction” with cars among young students and city dwellers. However, as soon as you leave the big cities, the freedom with the car vanishes (again).

The behavior of young people hardly changes, but attitudes do. In 2017, as part of a research project, Jérôme Laviolette surveyed students about their relationship with the automobile. He found that young people are generally more critical of the consequences of automobiles for traffic, the environment and their wallets than older people. Paradoxically, the symbol of freedom and independence associated with the automobile remains.

English sociologist John Urry said the car was the most powerful social structure, remembers Professor Yoann Demoli. “We cannot fight against social structures. »

Learn more

  • 54% Percentage of males aged 16-24 holding a driver’s license or probationary license in 2022. In 1992 it was 65%.

    Source: Quebec Automobile Insurance Company