WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF DRIVING?
(P1) Ten years ago, a woman called Barbara Noble asked an important question.
(P2) “Why are some young people choosing not to drive?”
(P3) Barbara was a STATISTICIAN at the Department for Transport and her report was trying to UNTANGLE a mystery.
(P4) For decades, the richer Britain got, the more people drove. But sometime in the 1990s that stopped.
(P5) In fact, young people, especially young men, were driving a lot less.
(P6) What Barbara’s report had revealed was something that became known as Peak Car – the idea that we had permanently fallen out of love with our cars.
(P7) It was not just happening in the UK, but in lots of rich countries, including the US.
(P8) In 2012, the RAC Foundation analysed Britain’s driving statistics between 1995 and 2007.
(P9) About 70% of us were driving more. But the average mileage was declining because young men, company car drivers, and Londoners were driving less.
(P10) But why was it happening? Well, the government took away the TAX BREAKS for company cars.
(P11) PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION is good in London and bus use has been going up. Parking charges make driving in the city expensive.
(P12) The increased pace of immigration has also played a big part. The SURVEYS show immigrants don’t drive as much.
(P13) But young men ABANDONING their cars is harder to explain.
(P14) Some suggest that the change is cultural – that phones have replaced cars as a STATUS SYMBOL.
(P15) The internet has reduced the need to drive so much.
(P16) More of us live in cities. The average speed of a car in Beijing is 7mph. Exactly the same average speed as a horse.
(P17) It is likely that all of these things play a part. But they’re not the key reason young people, especially men, aren’t driving.
(P18) “It’s not about desire, it’s about how difficult it is,” says Scott Le Vine, at Imperial College London.
(P19) Scott says it is more expensive to own a car and more difficult to pass your driving test than it used to be.
(P20) More than half of 17 to 29-year-olds without driver licences say they are either learning to drive, PUT OFF by the test, or put off by the cost.
(P21) Scott sums it up: “While older British people were getting richer in the 2000s, younger adults were getting poorer.”
(P22) This is RELEVANT because there has historically been a positive relationship between income and car ownership/use.
(P23) The big question then; is this change permanent?
(P24) It’s difficult to say, Scott says.
(P25) The average American also drives fewer miles now than they did in 1997. And just as in Britain, the percentage of young people getting licences is declining.
(P26) Why is it so important?
(P27) The way we will be travelling in the future has huge IMPLICATIONS for planning in the present.
(P28) Stephen Joseph, from the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “For at least 50 years, transportation policy in the UK has been based on the ASSUMPTION that car use would carry on growing.
(P29) “If car use has peaked, this will RADICALLY change transportation policy and road-building plans.”
If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.
- Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
- Do you have a driver license? What age were you when you got it?
- Do you enjoy driving, or is it just a necessity?
- How bad is the traffic in your city?
- Do you think that young people in your country are driving more or less?
EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:
What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.
- Tax break
- Public transportation
- Status symbol
- Put off