The current population of Great Britain stands at around 63.2 million people. From the way transport is presented by much of the media and by politicians, you would think that every single one of these people is a ‘motorist’.
I thought I’d take a quick look at the 2011 Census data, along with National Travel Survey information, to see who drives.
There are some slight problems here, given that the Census only gives age group breakdowns in five year increments. That means I can’t get hold of the numbers of people aged above and below 17 (the legal driving age); only those aged below 14 and above 19.
Nevertheless, we know from the Census that there are – in total – around 10.4 million people in Britain under the age of 14. Self-evidently, these people are not ‘motorists’. Although this figure includes very young children, the fact that it doesn’t include those aged 14-17 means that 10 million is probably a reasonable approximation for the number of children of independent mobility who do not drive cars.
The latest National Travel Survey tells us that 34% of females aged over 17 do not hold a driving licence. Again, the Census is not particularly helpful here, as we only have the numbers of females aged over 14, or over 19. Nevertheless, using the more conservative figure of the number of British females over the age of 19 – 25.5 million – we can say that there are at least 8.7 million females in Britain who could hold a driving a licence, but don’t.
We can perform a similar calculation for British males; 27% of them aged over 17 do not hold a driving licence. Again, using the conservative figure of the numbers of males over 19, we find that there are therefore at least 6.1 million males in Britain who could hold a driving a licence, but don’t.
Adding these conservative estimates up, we find that there are nearly 25 million non-motorists in Britain. Or – in other words – at the very least approximately 40% of the British population can’t drive a motor vehicle.
Worth thinking about.
As has been pointed out in the comments, I should have mentioned that this 25 million figure doesn’t even include those who hold a driving licence, but do not have access to a car, or those who have a licence but choose not to drive either at all, or rarely (like me). The numbers in these groups are probably quite hard to quantify, but will almost certainly push the non-driving percentage of the British population well over 40%.
Thanks to Shaun McDonald, who has pointed me in the direction of some more detailed stats. The total number of British under-17s is 12.2 million. The number of Britons over the age of 17 is 49.1 million, of which 28% do not have a driving licence – or 13.8 million people.