Interestingly, it's the 25-34 year old cohort that shows a decline coincident with the Recession. Younger cohorts show declines starting well before the crash of 2008. (Part of this, also, may be a demographic bump peaking in '99 among 14-17, and that group aging with bumps in 2001 for the 18-21 group, in 2003 for 22-24, and so on - but the overall decline is clear.)
The population does not show equivalent declines, so these data also represent a decline in rate of licenses, not merely a decline in absolute numbers.
No wonder the car companies are moving to market aggressively to young people! Driving is the perhaps the new Smoking.
In any case, this is yet another reason why the City should assertively move to adopt and then implement the Bike and Walk Salem update to the Transportation System Plan. If Salem wants to be a competitive in attracting and retaining young adults in the work force, it would do well to heed this trend and offer a robust suite of mobility choices.
Update, February 2 - here's a chart using the same data, but sorted into two buckets. It really shows the shift.
Data from DMV Driver Statistics and this graph of County level data.
Thanks to Jeff for finding this!
Update, December 11th, 2014
Vehicle Miles Traveled, Age Edition. cc: @citylab @e_jaffe http://t.co/YgMUdaXzle pic.twitter.com/lUHuUMXExR
— Oregon Econ Analysis (@OR_EconAnalysis) December 8, 2014