ALBERTA
08/05/2014 07:11 EDT | Updated 10/05/2014 05:59 EDT

Driver's Licences Not A Priority, Say Some Young Albertans

Alexey Klementiev via Getty Images
Experts say some young people are waiting longer to get their driver's licences — or just not bothering at all.

Ron Wilson, a driver's education instructor with the Alberta Motor Association, says some reasons include the costs associated with driving, rides from parents and easy access to transit in urban centres.

"There's been some studies done, and some of the reasons are now a days young people are more connected than say when I was a teenager," he said. 

"You know there is Facebook, there's internet — they are a lot more connected with their friends, easier to connect. Cost of living is higher for some, there's student loans, things like that. So people are just waiting longer to drive."

Alberta Transportation says the number of people aged 15 to 24 with a licence has dropped by about 20 per cent over the past 20 years. Today about three-quarters of people in that age group have a licence — down from about 90 per cent.

Juliet Burgess from Calgary doesn't have a driver's licence. She lives downtown and walks to work nearby.

"It doesn't seem like an expense that I want to spend these days," said the 26-year-old. "I find my money goes towards things that are more important to me."

Burgess says many of her friends also decided driving a vehicle doesn't fit with their finances or lifestyle. She says she avoids jobs that make driving mandatory and uses an Alberta ID card for identification.

'I never felt the need for a car'

Alya Jinah grew up in Montreal and only just got her licence at the age of 29 after moving to Calgary. She "got the hint" after her friend gave a driver's education book as a birthday gift.

"I never felt the need for a car," she said. "Basically I lived close to public transit and it was really easy to get around. And same thing here."

Jinah says her driver's licence has come in handy for using her work vehicle in Calgary's vast urban sprawl, but she still uses the bus to get to and from work.

One transportation expert says fewer younger drivers will likely make the roads safer.

"Younger drivers tend to be more involved in accidents with a very high severity," said Alex de Barros from the University of Calgary.

He says some would-be drivers are likely choosing more sustainable options, such as biking or public transportation.

"If they don't see driving as a rite of passage, as necessity really, it will be easier for us to convince them to use more sustainable modes transportation," said de Barros. "So we could see an impact on sustainability as well."

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