TRURO, N.S. – The excitement that once came with getting a driver’s licence at 17 is fading away as fewer and fewer young people hit the roads.
While getting a licence was once an important milestone in a teenager’s life, provincial numbers show fewer people between the ages of 17-25 are going for their licences each year, with numbers continuously declining over the last decade.
“Really, it’s about the lack of need and the amount of money it costs to drive today,” said Ricky Pitts, an 18-year-old college student living in Truro.
Pitts has no desire to get her licence right now, largely due to cost, but also says the accessibility of towns like Truro make it less of a necessity.
“I can pretty much walk everywhere here and I just really don’t have the money to get my licence, let alone a car and insurance,” said Pitts.
While she has no issues walking to get around and makes use of Truro’s taxi service on messy days, Pitts has found situations where driving would make things a bit easier.
“In some ways having a licence would be good, like when you are moving things or need to get somewhere out of walking distance,” she said.
“I just look at it as exercise, as I know I can’t get my licence right now. I will probably get them in the future, once I’m out of college, but nothing is set in stone.”
Like Pitts, more and more youth are choosing to not obtain their licences and instead are finding alternative ways to get around, such as walking, public transit or relying on friends and family.
According to Service Nova Scotia, only 4,964 17-year-olds obtained their class 5 licence in 2017 province wide, a drop from the 6,321 who obtained theirs only seven years prior in 2010.
While numbers continue to drop over the years for the 17-19 age range, more 25-29 year olds went for their licence last year than previous years, jumping from 44,094 in 2009 to 48,798 in 2017.
Although some suggested driving-related anxiety or not wanting the extra responsibility associated with driving, most agreed with Pitts, citing the costs of a licence and car as main deterrents.
“I got mine only because I lived 45 minutes away from school and work at the time. Had I lived in town, I wouldn’t have got them. The cost of keeping a vehicle is ridiculous,” said Katie Skidmore, 21.
While high costs for insurance, registration, driver’s education and the purchase and maintenance of a car are deterring young drivers, others are seeing licences as a necessity as they get older.
“Not having a licence has definitely left me feeling stuck,” said Rachel Baird, a 27-year-old Truro resident who is working on acquiring one.
Like Pitts and the others, Baird didn’t intend on getting her licence, but after having her daughter, meeting her fiancé a few years ago and now discussing moving out of town, being able to drive has become a must.
“Now, my daughter wants to take riding lessons at the place her friend is taking them, but we can’t do that because it’s too far to walk. Not having a licence definitely affects my day-to-day life, and has hindered my job opportunities for sure.”
Last year, Baird passed the written exam for her beginner’s permit and has recently purchased a car. Next month, she will begin her driver’s education course before obtaining her full licence.
“When it comes down to it, I’m probably paying just as much in taxis to get around and to do what I need to do as I’m paying for an actual car,” she said.
“Fuel wise, my car is great, but gas is pricey and so is the maintenance that comes with owning one.
“It’s all expensive, but it’s a necessity at this point.”