By Patrick Rérat, Lucas Haldimann
Driving licences are much more than simple official documents; they represent a set of rules, the right to legally drive and also a rite of passage linked to the transition to adulthood. Yet, despite having previously been seen as an almost obligatory part of growing up, the driving licence seems to have lost its attraction, as fewer young people hold one. Based on a large-scale survey (more than 40,000 respondents) carried out in Switzerland, this paper addresses the factors involved in whether or not young people obtain a driving licence and identifies effects of gender, socio-professional class, spatial context, national origin and psychological dimensions. It also analyses the reasons for which young people may not hold a licence (lack of need, lack of time and environmental awareness) and their frequency among various categories of young people. On the whole, this analysis suggests that the decline in numbers of young people with driving licences observed over the last decades appears to have more to do with a delay in getting a licence than with any renouncement, given that only a small minority of young people do not expect to get a licence in the future. This delay may indicate the resilience of the system of automobility (since people live without a driving licence for only a limited time before becoming motorised) but could also point to aspirations, priorities and representations less favorable to car use even if the latter still represents one of the principal modes of transport.