A couple of decades ago when I was involved with the Libertarian Students at the University of Arizona, I was working on a project for which we met on weekends at school. During this time, our club president got in the habit of expecting me (and others) to drive him all over the place, and to do it for free. One day, as gesture of kindness on a hot day, I generously offered to pick him up on my way to the university where we were all meeting. That quickly turned into an expectation on his part, and I eventually decided to put an end to it.

The next time we planned to meet, he told me when to pick him up even though I had not offered him a ride. I told him that I wouldn’t be coming by his house this time as I had other plans, and I’d just meet him at school. This ungrateful brat angrily demanded to know how I expected him to get there. He should get there the same way he did every other day when he was going to class, I suggested (in his case, it was by bicycle). Red-faced and seething with anger that I might assert my right to a life and priorities of my own above his, he informed me very curtly that would not be convenient for him.


Guess who never got a ride from me again?

At that time, in the 1990s, this ostensible adult non-driver in Tucson, Arizona was an anomaly in my social circles. More and more, though, I’m encountering young people avoiding learning to drive. Sure, you can get by without knowing how to drive, but it’s still a crappy idea, particularly in the United States (I won’t comment here on other cultures and locations). This is a basic skill of adulthood in the United States, and here are three reasons why you should have it in your wheelhouse, even if you don’t own or don’t plan to own a car.

1. Inability to drive limits your career choices and your career success.
There are many professions, both blue and white collar, for which the ability to drive is a job requirement. This is not just true of obvious driving jobs such as in shipping, transportation, or delivery, but also in a number of professions that require travel to different work sites. Consider how you might get hired without a driver’s license in such fields as repair work, field work in many STEM professions, paramedics and firefighters, numerous jobs related to real estate, journalism and photography, sales, catering, warehouse work that involves forklifts, and much more.

Can’t drive? You can automatically scratch hundreds or thousands of jobs off the list of lucrative ways to support yourself. You can scratch off a lot of entrepreneurial ventures you might independently embark on as well.

Even if your job requirements do not strictly state “must know how to drive”, how do you think it will affect your co-workers’ opinions of you when they learn that you will never be the one to drive when the group goes out to lunch? That you will need one of them to drive you around when you are on business travel? When you try to hitch a ride with one of them to the golf course or the office Christmas party?

Ability to drive isn’t so much a signal of adulthood as lack of the ability to drive is a signal of non-adulthood. If you can do it, it doesn’t particularly stand out, but if you can’t? It’s an eyebrow-raiser, and not in a good way.

Especially for younger people just entering the workforce, this can impact your co-workers’ perceptions of your readiness even for non-driving related responsibilities. If you’re not mature enough to drive, they may have some second thoughts about trusting you with other adult responsibilities such as handling finances, customer relations, managing other employees, and other tasks that are crucial to moving up in your line of work.

At some point you need to ask yourself if you want to be seen more as the office mascot who gets toted around to fetch and carry for the grown-ups, or if you want to be treated as a serious colleague to be trusted with real responsibility and whose ideas and recommendations carry weight.

2. Inability to drive also limits your personal choices.
You may feel comfortable with where you live and what you do, but not being able to drive automatically takes certain options off the table for all practical purposes. And when they’re already off the table, you may not even be considering what you are missing.

For instance, you may be foregoing more affordable places to live that are not on a mass transit route, and thereby foregoing the opportunities you would have had with the money you are not saving. There may be places you are not seeing, experiences you are not having, and people you are not meeting in places you cannot reach by mass transit.

When you move to a new residence, the simple act of getting your things from one place to another changes. Rather than renting a vehicle and packing it up and moving at your own convenience, now you are at the mercy of friends or movers as to how your things are relocated and when.

And there are all kinds of other, non-obvious ways you are limiting yourself that you probably don’t notice because you simply have no reason to consider what you could do if you could drive.

I know the city is considered in some circles to be the height of culture, but can you genuinely consider yourself a well-rounded citizen of the world when your experience is almost completely devoid of suburbia, rural culture, and nature itself?

Yes, I know you can dip your toe into these worlds by way of workarounds such as organized travel or tagging along with friends or family, but the point remains that you are limiting your options. The harder it is to have these types of experiences, the fewer of them you are going to have. It’s that simple.

Speaking of tagging along…

3. We, many of your friends and family, may be too polite to say it, but we’d appreciate it if you’d step up and learn this basic adulting skill.

We like going places and doing things with you. We don’t necessarily mind giving you a lift once in a while, especially in unusual, urgent, or emergency circumstances. However, we do not enjoy playing your personal chauffeur on a regular basis, rearranging our lives and expending our time, energy, and finances on extra logistical considerations to accommodate you, especially when it is not reciprocated.

Kindly learn to drive and then take your turn at the wheel when we carpool, so that we sometimes can make use of the riders’ privilege of using commute time to catch up on work or other responsibilities. On long road trips, it would be nice if you could share the tedious, yet still tiring work of driving so that we can get to our destinations quicker, safely, and not already burned out and in need of a nap to rest our eyes. When going out to clubs, parties, or dinner and drinks, it would be nice if you would take your turn as designated driver rather than us being stuck with yet another virgin daiquiri.

I am going to assume here that you are AT THE VERY LEAST offering enthusiastically (not on an “if necessary” basis) to split gas EVERY time you get a ride from us somewhere, even if we’ve declined to accept before. (Note that that doesn’t even include the wear and tear on our car if we are going out of our way to accommodate you.) We may have declined the first couple of times you got a ride from us, assuming that this would be a rare occurrence or not realizing it would not be reciprocated, but are now reconsidering as it becomes more and more habitual and one-sided. If you aren’t at least offering, this may be one more way you may unwittingly be getting on our nerves.

Consider that if our every interaction with you is tinged with the threat that we may be called upon yet again to shuttle you around as if we’re your mother and you’re a nine-year-old with a soccer game scheduled, or have to find some socially acceptable way of turning you down, we may simply start avoiding you. So not only are you potentially limiting your experiences, you may also not realize that you are impacting your relationships as well. If this is the case, I suggest that you go get your driver’s license and come back when you’re ready to interact with us on a more equal basis.

And while you’re at it, do us all a favor and learn to change a tire as well.