I know, I know. We’re all supposed to be getting ourselves to work these days by more environmentally friendly means. Get the bus, or the train. Go by bike. Heck, even walk. Try telling that to major employers though…
According to a survey carried out by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, 52 per cent of second and third level students have applied for a job where having a car or at least being able to drive was a basic requirement. 42 per cent said they had felt that an inability to drive made them less employable.
Popularity of driving is not on the wain
Those seem like faintly shocking figures in a world where public transport is supposedly our saviour and it’s alleged that teens and ‘Millennials’ don’t much like cars or driving. Dig down into the figures though and things start to become a little clearer. Of those surveyed who do not yet have a driving license, more than half said that it was because driving and owning a car was too expensive. Meanwhile, a whopping 85 per cent said that not enough is done in school to educate and prepare for life as a driver or a road user.
That’s a pretty terrible indictment isn’t it? We’ve managed to create an environment, a country, where being able to drive is an absolute necessity. Quite apart from the fact that public transport services are scant at best away from city centres, and frequently unreliable, we still have employers essentially demanding that graduates and applicants be able and willing to drive for work. Mind you, you can see the employers’ point – after all, if public transport is so poor then how else are people supposed to get to work on time, and then the cycle just viciously goes around again.
Car costs inhibits safety
Yet we still live in a country where younger drivers are enormously discouraged from driving. Vehicle Registration Tax keeps car prices artificially high, so that more recent models with the sorts of safety systems we might want our youngest and most vulnerable drivers to have are well out of their financial reach.
Then there is the insurance industry, which tries by means of excessive premiums to force young drivers into a narrow band of only 1.0-litre cars (which again usually do not come with a full suite of safety systems) yet offers no support for driver training other than intrusive spy-in-the-cab electronic monitors.
Furthermore, we have a Government which still does not recognise the need to including driver training and safety awareness on the secondary school curriculum. Is it because of some sop to environmentalism? That schools can’t be seen to encourage driving because it’s not politically correct? What about safety? What about employment prospects? What about the simple building up of useful life skills?
Frankly, for far too many years now, we’ve served our younger drivers poorly in this country. Officialdom has basically ignored the issues, basically taking a very unpleasant neo-liberal attitude towards the plight of learners, a sort of they’ll-do-it-if-they-can-afford-it attitude. Well, that just doesn’t cut the mustard any more. Research shows pretty conclusively that the falling numbers of younger people driving, globally, is far more to do with a lack of money, insecure employment and the rising cost of both motoring and general living. As soon as they can actually afford to, these younger drivers are getting on the road. It’s not a Millennial disdain for cars that’s doing it – it’s empty pockets.
Future drivers attitude to driving
Now, this is possibly not the time and place to start having a debate on the ills and injustices of the current brand of liberal capitalism espoused by the Irish government and others, but the fact is that we can see from the numbers in the Enterprise survey that it has having a material effect on the next generation of drivers and workers. If people can’t afford a car, they often cannot get to work, and if they cannot get to work… Well, we’ve seen in the past seven year what happens when people can’t get to work.
An apocalyptic vision? Possibly so, and yes it’s really just one tiny strand of the myriad issues and problems which we need to fix in Ireland and Europe’s political and economic system. But it’s an important one, close to our hearts anyway. We were all young drivers once, after all…