More cars, but less motoring

6 Jun

There has been quite a lot of interest  in the idea of ‘peak car‘ recently which proposes that we may have already reached a point of ‘peak car’ and that from here on car use may decline rather than grow further or level off. Total vehicle mileage in the UK has indeed declined since 2005 and in London since the early 1990s. Read about this in The Independent and in the New Statesman. Significantly, the government predicted back in 2003 that traffic would grow by 25% by 2025 and that vehicle ownership would grow by 30%. Both of which now seem very unrealistic and should probably be reviewed!

By contrast the number of cars on UK roads has continued its relentless rise  (growing 27% during Labour’s term in office from 1997-2010). This should mean that each cars are each traveling less distance per year and this is indeed true. Mileage per car peaked at 10,600 in 1995, and is now down to 9,200 and heading down to levels last seen in the 1960s!

Mileage per car per year

Interestingly the percentage of 21-29 year olds with driving licenses has also fallen. It is now 65%, down from a peak of 74% in 1992-1994 and a percentage which was last seen back in 1985.

Chart sources:
Vehicle mileage: ‘TRA9908 Road traffic by type of vehicle, historic in kilometres
Vehicle stock: Various sources from Vehicle licensing statistics

3 Responses to “More cars, but less motoring”

  1. livinginabox June 6, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    I would see ‘the percentage of 21-29 year olds with driving licenses has also fallen’ as not necessarily good news.

    154. Under the New Drivers Act, about 15,000 licences are revoked each year.[234] There is a particular prevalence of licence revocation among young men: figures for June 2005 to May 2006 show that, out of a total of 14,988 revocations, 77% were males 25 and under; and 35% were males under 20. The Department for Transport identified that DVLA records suggest that half of all revocations are linked to driving uninsured (for which the penalty includes six points), and about a quarter to speeding offences. It is a matter of concern that so many novice drivers are losing their licence because of a failure to purchase driving insurance….

    155. An issue of very serious concern is the fact that so few of those novice drivers who have their licence revoked ever properly become re-licensed. Only about half of the drivers who have had their licence revoked under the Act have recovered their full licence by passing another practical driving test….
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmtran/355/35512.htm#n235

    • Peter Miller June 6, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

      Thank you for that comment. One question is the extent to which the drop in licensed drivers is due to young adults deferring the decision to start driving and those who choose to drive without a license.

      From my personal experience it would seem that many are deferring the decision due to the cost of insurance and others are no doubt choosing to drive without a license and/or insurance. In my town young men driving illegally seem to cause a considerable percentage of the fatalities and serious injuries.

      The main message from the post is however that we now have more cars cluttering our towns which are being used less. The stuff about reductions in driving licenses is a secondary but possibly significant issue.

  2. Si June 12, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    Until there is a further decline that affects workers in the factory/inudstry that the government have to “give” money away again to encourage spending like the waste of time and money scrappage scheme.

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