Has the peak of motoring been reached?

Long-term progress:
Transport performance of car traffic has increased dramatically.
Short-term progress:
In recent years, the transport performance of cars has grown only a little and began to decline in 2012.
Progress in relation to targets:

Car transport performance in Finland 1980–2013

Car transport performance

Car transport performance refers to the total travel distance of all cars in one year. Passenger transport performance refers to the total distance travelled by all passengers in a year. Source: Statistics of Finnish Transport Agency. 2014.

Three million cars in Finland

With the exception of the deep recession in the 1990s, the number of automobiles has increased in Finland on an almost yearly basis, with over 3 million in the register of vehicles at the end of 2012. Of these, 2.6 million were in active use. The number of cars registered increased by 2.6% and those in active use by 1.1% from the previous year.

Although the number of cars is increasing, the distances driven in them has showed signs of tailing off in the 2000s. In 2012-2013, the passenger transport performance of cars has even fell slightly over the year 2011. This had previously only occurred during recessions.

Has motoring reached its peak in Finland? Could it begin to decline?

This is not the case according to the latest 2007 road traffic forecast by the Finnish Transport Agency, which forecasts that traffic on public roads will increase 34% by 2040 in comparison with 2006. In 2007–2012, however, transport performance increased at a much slower pace than forecast.

According to the Finnish Transport Agency’s latest National Travel Survey, approximately 70% of journeys in Finland are made by private car. The number of journeys per capita is 2.9 per day, and their total distance is around 41 km. Of these journeys, 28% relate to work or studies, 37% to leisure activities and 35% to shopping or personal business.


  • Finnish Transport Safety Agency, Trafi and Ålands Motorfordonsbyrå. 2013.
  • Liikenneviraston tieliikenne-ennuste, Tulevaisuuden näkymiä 3/2007. Finnish Transport Agency.
  • Statistics of Finnish Transport Agency. 2014.

The Stockholm phenomenon reduces motoring in cities

Fewer 18-year-olds living in urban areas now obtain a driver’s licence. This trend is known as ‘the Stockholm phenomenon’ after the city in which it began. Good public transport services in cities and environmental awareness are considered to be the reasons for this, though it could also relate to the high cost of gaining a driver’s licence.

In Finland, the phenomenon has become increasingly common, particularly in the Helsinki metropolitan area. Young people may postpone the acquisition of a driver’s licence to a later age, but the number of people who choose not to drive at all is also thought to be increasing.

These predictions are based on experiences gained in Stockholm, where only 9% of 18-year-olds obtain a driver’s licence.

In Finland, 75% of 18-year-olds living in rural municipalities acquired a driver’s licence for a private car. The figure for those living in densely populated municipalities was 67% and for those living in cities 56%. Helsinki residents are different from other urban youngsters: only 33% of 18-year-olds living in Helsinki acquired a driver’s licence for a private car.


  • Statistics of driving licences. Finnish Transport Safety Agency. 2013.


Published 2014-04-04 at 8:11, updated 2016-07-21 at 16:55