In the fantasy world of car adverts the roads are wide and empty, the backdrop a mountain range, speed is of the essence, and the people fresh and beautiful. Saccharine or sexy, the marketing is all about power, desire, and freedom. But as most of us know, driving isn’t quite such a thrill on planet reality.
There’s the cost of forking out for the vehicle in the first place, not to mention the fuel and insurance that follows. You get stuck in traffic jams, seek and often pay for parking space, are vulnerable to road rage (yourself and other drivers)…
Given this stressful carscape, is driving still the ticket to freedom it was when Passion4Transport (P4T) was 18, back in the 1980s?
‘Young adults [aged 17-29] in Great Britain and other countries are driving less now than they did in the 1990s’, says Young People’s travel – what’s changed and why?.
This 2018 report examines how demographic change, along with shifts in the living and socio-economic situations of young people have influenced their travel behaviour. It also explores the role of changes in young people’s values and attitudes, their use of new tech like smartphones, and the direct influence of transport systems.
P4T caught up with Rosie Savage, 17, who passed her driving test in November 2018, to discuss her life behind the wheel so far. She lives in Halesworth, a town in East Anglia with upwards of 5,500 inhabitants, a rail station, and a few bus services.
31 January, 2019
P4T: Tell us about your car?
Rosie Savage: I drive a petrol Renault Clio 2009 that’s 10 years’ old. We bought it second hand off Auto Trader UK for £1,750.
P4T: What do you find most difficult about driving?
Rosie Savage: I’d say probably manoeuvring or parallel parking, because obviously I haven’t been driving for that long. Another stressful situation is when there are loads of cars behind me and I have to park quickly.
P4T: Any bad behaviour from other drivers?
Rosie Savage: Quite a lot! For instance, when you are on your side of the road and another driver overtakes a car on their side of the road so they are coming directly at you, on your side of the road. And you’re thinking “oh are they going to hit me!” Also parking. When you spot a space and get to it then you see the driver has parked over two spaces. This is really annoying. Another one is people not indicating. On roundabouts, for example. So you stop, to let them pass by, but then it turns out they are turning off before reaching you.
P4T: Is parking space an issue?
Rosie Savage: Yes, in the street where I live there’s residents parking, which means one permit per household. Obviously Mum’s got that so either I have to park at the end of our street or in the marketplace, which is annoying because Wednesday is market day so I can’t park there on Tuesday nights. I did this the other week and couldn’t get my car out on the Wednesday – it was blocked by all the stalls. If I can’t find a space I can park in our neighbour Lorraine’s driveway. For our street, you are allowed to park after 8pm and leave before 8am without a permit. If there’s a space free, of course! But I leave after 8 in the morning to go to school and get back before 8 in the evening.
P4T: Is there a lot of road traffic?
Rosie Savage: Only really at rush hour in Halesworth, when the roads are a bit busier, not generally not that much. But in Norwich [city with a population >186,000] it’s very stressful driving there at most times of the day, especially at rush hour times.
P4T: How important is it to be able to drive where you live?
Rosie Savage: Driving definitely changed my life because I used to have to rely on buses and friends to take me everywhere. Now if my friends ask if I want to do something with them I can just get in the car and go without worrying about how I’m going to get there, can Mum pick me up, etc. I just do what I want, when I want, really. I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to rely on buses. If you don’t drive you have to get driven round by your parents or get buses. But buses in Halesworth come once every hour or two hours, and Sundays I think it’s once every four hours. Plus the services are very unreliable – they are often late or don’t show up at all. If you are getting somewhere and have to be on time, you can’t rely on them.
P4T: Your views on the public transport, the bus services, in your area?
Rosie Savage: I had a bus pass for about three months, which cost around 200 and school paid for. It was valid for Konectbus services only. I think more people would use the buses if they were more regular, more reliable, and went to more places. If you live in out of the way villages, like a few of my friends, you don’t get any buses at all. When their cars are in the garage, a lot of people do use the bus; it’s not really seen as cool or not cool.
P4T: Do all your friends in the area take their driving test?
Rosie Savage: Yes, all the friends in my group, there are 10 of us, have now passed their test. Most people around 18 are working towards their test, a lot of them have taken it quite a few times and failed. There are some who aren’t working towards it at all. But only a few.
P4T: Does it cost to run a car?
Rosie Savage: It’s very very very expensive! Its obviously cheaper to buy a car second hand. But then there’s the insurance. For my first year, with a black box, which monitors your speed and driving behaviour, the insurance is still £1,225. The second year it goes down to around £600 if you don’t have any accidents. And it goes down further if you stay incident free. So you have to be careful the first year or your insurance is bound to cost a fortune. Fuel is also expensive. It works out at around £60 to fill up my tank. If I drive to school every day, this will last me about two weeks or a bit longer if I don’t drive around too much in between.
‘There is good evidence that young people have been deterred from driving by high costs (especially car insurance costs)’ – Young People’s travel – what’s changed and why?
P4T: Would you ever think of not having a car?
Rosie Savage: If I lived in a city I wouldn’t have one. If I moved to a city I wouldn’t bring my car with me unless it was one like Norwich, which doesn’t have a Tube. But definitely not for a place like London or Paris. I don’t see the point when there’s loads of regular transport services to get you where you want to go.
P4T: Do you think about the pollution from exhaust fumes?
Rosie Savage: Yes. I know pollution from cars is bad but if I can avoid driving places or if I’m with my friends we’ll often take just one car instead of everyone driving separately. So we do think about pollution, but not too much further than that.
P4T: Have you ever thought about having an electric or hybrid car one day?
Rosie Savage: I’d have an electric or hybrid car now if they were practical. But they don’t go for very long and right now there’s nowhere to charge them up, well definitely not in this area. Maybe there are charging points in Norwich. Also, they are very expensive and you can’t buy them secondhand. At my age you have to get secondhand cars because they are cheaper. I imagine the insurance costs quite a bit, too.
The role of societal trends for current generations of young people, according to Young People’s travel – what’s changed and why?:
• Demographic situation: reduction in partnerships and parenting has contributed to a reduced need to have a car and to drive.
• Living situation: more young people are living in cities and this means they have less need to use a car and find alternative modes more useful.
• Socio-economic situation: lower full-time employment among young men, more unstable employment and lower disposable incomes have made acquiring and using a car less affordable. Increased participation in higher education has reduced the number of young people who require a car and increased public transport use.
• ICTs: ubiquitous use of mobile ICT devices has changed social practices, giving more flexibility about where activities are undertaken and making some travel less essential.
• Values and attitudes: environmental attitudes have not been shown to change substantially, but lower expectations to drive have emerged among certain subgroups of the 17-29 age group for whom the car is no longer as aspirational as it once was.
• Transport and mobility: learning to drive and owning a car have become more difficult and costly. In areas where the availability of alternatives to driving, including reliable public transport and infrastructure for cycling and walking, has improved, cars are now less desirable or necessary for some young people.