The Sunday Times Magazine: Driving: I’m a millennial… Get me through my driving test


It was as we cut up the other learner driver on the roundabout that I knew for sure I’d failed my test. What was really frustrating is that we were only 10 minutes in. I assumed then, once again, I’d never learn to drive. But in the end it took me only a week.

Like Brexit, cannabis and Love Island, driving has divided the generations. Something that was once cool and aspirational — a rite of passage for our parents — has fallen from fashion like Jeremy Clarkson’s wardrobe. Unlike dad jeans, though, driving shows no sign of making a comeback.

We have passed peak car. Fewer young people than ever are driving. According to recent statistics, while in the 1990s almost half (48%) of 17- to 20-year-olds and 75% of 20- to 29-year-olds had licences, by 2014 29% and 63% respectively did.

There are plenty of reasons why people can’t be bothered with driving. And not one of them is that the trains are so good. Today many people have Uber accounts and live in cities with public transport. For once, driving is less convenient. There’s the traffic and the cost — of the car, the speeding fines and the insurance.

Research by Oxford University and West of England University Bristol suggests driving has become less appealing now that digital interactions trump face-to-face meetings. Personally, I’ve always just preferred being driven. Or getting drunk.

Still, I reckon driving’s biggest turn-off is that it’s no longer as sexy as it was. Once it was dangerous, rebellious, phallic and phwoar. Now buying a car is about as edgy as choosing a sofa from DFS. Dirty talk about choking and handling has been replaced by discussions about safety features: airbags and antilock braking.

Driving doesn’t whisper excitement. It says commute. Or car-boot sale. Or school run. Like every celebration of sex and capitalism, driving fell out of fashion in the 1980s, which is why no one’s written a better driving song than Little Red Corvette.



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