More young people are often obtaining their driver’s licence at a later age, or choosing not to get a licence at all, current statistics show.
Alberta Transportation reports that approximately 75 per cent of Albertans, aged 14 to 24, have a driver’s licence.
This is a 20-per-cent decrease from the number of people in that age group 20 years ago.
Scott Wilson, the policy analyst at the Alberta Motor Association(AMA), attributes the decline to factors like affordability, environmental concerns, and the embrace of other forms of mobility including walking, cycling, and transit.
“When economic conditions worsen, and people may have less access to employment, they are less likely to be able to afford to drive,” said Wilson.
“The need to get a driver’s licence for a young person may become less important,” said Wilson.
“In addition, younger people tend to be heavy users of technology, such as mobile devices, and this may make it easier for them to be connected, perhaps reducing the need for travel.”
Mount Royal University student Bailey Davis, 19, currently holds a learner’s licence and relies on public transit as her main mode of transportation.
“Since moving to the city, I just don’t need to drive,” said Davis.
“Cars are expensive, insurance is expensive, and gas is expensive. It’s all horribly expensive.”
SAIT student Annie Peterson, 21, said the main reason she is without a licence is because she was ill from the ages 14 to 18, which is the typical age at many young people work towards getting their driving permit.
“When I finally resolved my illness, I got anxious about [getting a licence], and I kept avoiding taking the test,” said Peterson.
Peterson usually takes public transit around the city, or depends on rides from others.
However, she isn’t keen on these alternatives to driving, and plans to soon get a licence.
“Taking the train isn’t really convenient for day-to-day activities,” said Peterson.
“Since Calgary is very wide-spread, it’s a little harder to get around [by train], and it is definitely a lot faster to drive.”
Calgarian Tony Tascona, 20, who holds a learner’s licence, said his preferred alternative to driving is commuting by bicycle.
“Calgary has really good bike paths, so I can get anywhere within a 10 kilometre radius in half an hour,” said Tascona.
He believes cost and lack of motivation are the main barriers preventing young people from getting a licence to drive.
“I haven’t taken the time to practice enough to get my licence, and I can’t really afford to have a car,” said Tascona.
Tascona said that among his friends, the greatest complaint he hears about Alberta’s licencing system is the inconvenience of taking the exit exam to move from a Class 5 Graduated Driver’s Licence (GDL) to a Class 5 full licence.
The Class 5-GDL licence imposes a number of restrictions on the driver that do not exist for a full Class 5 licence.
These include a zero alcohol tolerance, a licence suspension threshold of eight demerit points versus 15, the inability to upgrade to a commercial licence class, and the inability to act as an accompanying driver to a learner driver.
The Class 5 road test and a new licence can cost drivers between $150 to $200.
“[The test] has a high failure rate, so people can end up shelling out a couple hundred bucks for the test just to end up failing,” said Tascona.
Wilson said the reason so many Albertans, especially young drivers, retain their Class 5-GDL is because of the cost, and the fact that the Class 5 exit test isn’t mandatory.
When economic conditions worsen, and people may have less access to employment, they are less likely to be able to afford to drive – Scott Wilson
Calgarian Yolanda Izzoti, 20, is an individual who has chosen to retain her Class 5-GDL despite being eligible to upgrade to a full licence.
Izotti said the restrictions on the GDL don’t bother her, so she doesn’t see upgrading as a necessity.
“The GDL is functional,” said Izotti.
“I would maybe later consider getting the full licence, but right now I don’t need the other one for anything.”