We have written a lot about the impact of autonomous vehicles upon the auto insurance market.  Another trend, however, may have an even bigger effect.  A new report from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute show that the number of licensed drivers under 25 years of age has declined dramatically in the past two decades.

In 2014, according to the study, only 60.1 percent of 18-year-olds held a driver’s license.  In 1983, 80.4% of 18-year-olds held a driver’s license.  The decline isn’t limited to young drivers; authors Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle found a continuous decrease in the percentage of those under age 45 with licenses.

The authors have published only their statistical analysis and have not speculated on the cause of the decline.  However, the decreasing number of licensed drivers has been noted elsewhere and attributed to everything from the economic downturn of 2008 to greater population density to the emergence of ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft.  Americans’ long-term love affair with the automobile seems to have entered a cooling-off stage, particularly among younger people.

As a social trend, this poses significant challenges to automobile insurers.  As insurers experiment with telematics, study data related to automated safety features, and debate the extent of premium shrinkage related to the introduction of driverless cars, they also need to recognize that they are losing potential customers who would rather not drive at all.  This trend will, in all likelihood, only accelerate as autonomous vehicles become more widespread.

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