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Worth It: Not Having a Driver's License

Illustration for article titled Worth It: Not Having a Drivers License

Much unlike many a magazine editor who recommends you buy all sorts of crap that they most likely got for free, your Jezebel staff doesn't get jack shit (other than books, unsolicited). And that's how it should be. But on our own time, in our personal lives, we still buy stuff. So this is Worth It, our recommendation of random things that we've actually spent our own money on. These are the things we buy regularly or really like, things we'd actually tell our friends about. And now we're telling you.


Like most of America, when I was a kid, the only way I could reliably get from place to place was if my parents drove me there. When you live 25 miles from the nearest hospital, biking from place to place just isn't an option, and adult independence (and survival, since we also lived several miles from the nearest grocery store) and driving are inexorably linked. I devoted an entire page in my FEINGOLD 1998 bumper sticker emblazoned journal to the day I got my Wisconsin driver's license, a day that, in my teenage mind, was the beginning of a whole career of driving around without my parents' help. I had arrived!

But my attitude toward driving soured quickly after college when I moved to Chicago, a lovely city where the government exploits car ownership as another way to pump its citizens for more money, and having a car there amounted to much more trouble than it was worth. Sure, it was nice to have a vehicle for when I had to go to the grocery store and get the cat hoarder-size vat o' kitty litter ("I only have one cat! I'm just super lazy about going to the store!" I'd titter to the clerk as they nodded incredulously) or pick someone up from the airport, but other than that, it was basically a gas-powered headache machine. Once, it was towed three times in ten days. Another time, a group of youths defaced it, smashing the windshield for fun while the old lady who lived in the garden apartment across the street watched. Eventually, I drove it back home and dropped it off at my parents' house. I was done having a car; from that day forward, if public transportation couldn't get me there, it wasn't worth going. The next year, my license expired. I didn't renew it.


And I've never looked back.

I'm not alone — according to Reuters, Generation Y (as in "Y such a terrible name, demographers?"), or people between the ages of 19 and 34, are driving less than any other living generation. A quarter of young Americans don't have their drivers' licenses, citing the expense, environmental impact, and general ass-pain it is to be responsible for a car. Some people in this generation have eschewed cars in favor of bicycles, but others, like me, have utilized the privilege of geographic mobility to choose to live in cities where cars aren't necessary. The American Public Transportation Association estimates that commuters who utilize public transportation over private vehicles save an average of $9,797 annually. In New York City, commuters without cars save $14,458. In Chicago, it's $11,494. That's a lot of cab rides and/or student loan payments.

Being free from worrying about paying for insurance, about where to park, about paying city licensing fees, about constantly being the persons unscrupulous friends would yoke with designated driver status, about trying to deflect my mother's suggestions that I drive home "for the weekend" (it was a 14 hour round trip from Chicago to my house, which gave me enough time to drive there, spend less than 24 hours with my parents, and drive back) has been totally worth it.

Don't get me wrong — in some places and circumstances, not having a car is out of the question, and I'd never begrudge anyone for choosing to live in a place where they need a license to get around or for wanting to have a car to tote kids from place to place or for not wanting to be carless in, say, LA or Miami. Eventually, I'll probably cave and get a license again; it's good for emergencies and for getting the hell out of dodge. But for my situation — young, urban, physically able to get around freely, childless — there's no reason to add the unnecessary stress of a car to my life.


Not driving a car, $9,797 annual savings.

Worth It only features things we paid for ourselves and actually like. Don't send us stuff.

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Erin Gloria Ryan

But if you're worried about this negatively impacting the American auto industry, fear not — people over 70 years old are driving more than ever. Wonder if that's a symptom of "elderly flight" from cities with public transportation infrastructure or just a thing that people decide to do when they're tired of dealing with people and just want some goddamn peace and quiet.