Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon
Debbie HopkinsMonday 23 February 2015 12:28pm

Postdoctoral research fellow Dr Debbie Hopkins is contributing to the BEATS Study, leading research into driver licensing and the use of information communication technologies by young people.

“Globally, there are many reports of changing generation Y mobility practices."

"Younger generations are less likely to learn to drive or own a car and those with a driver's licence are driving less than older generations,” says Hopkins.

“While this is not universal, this trend has been reported in a number of developed countries and seems to be happening in New Zealand.”

Hopkins, who is based at the Centre for Sustainability, has been involved with the Built Environment and Active Transport to Schools (BEATS) Study since the pilot project in 2013, which collected data from 160 students from four secondary schools in Dunedin.

Hopkins' findings, presented at the NERI (National Energy Research Institute) Energy Conference 2014 in Wellington, showed that young people perceive driving to be convenient but expensive, and suggested that parental role-modelling and encouragement is an important precursor to driving.

She is extending this work in the main BEATS Study, in which she is responsible for student, parent and teacher focus groups and school principal interviews. She also has questions in the student and parent surveys to test hypotheses around the causes of the changing mobility practices displayed by generation Y.

“We're asking students if they have a licence. Why or why not? How do they communicate with friends – do they see them virtually or physically? We ask about their preferred travel modes and future intentions – will they travel? Go to university? Get a job? Some of these factors could be contributing to these emergent mobility patterns.”

The BEATS Study ties in with Hopkins' work with the Energy Cultures research programme at the Centre for Sustainability, for which she is studying the mobility practices of generation Y (18–35 year olds) in Dunedin, Auckland and rural New Zealand.

“We're interested in why people travel in the ways they do and how they perceive transport modes. Understanding changing youth mobility practices could provide a transformative pathway towards a more sustainable, efficient and equitable transport system. But first we need to know more about the factors leading to this change; the individual, social, environmental, economic, policy, or built environment factors which are instigating change.”

In other projects, Hopkins is a postdoctoral research fellow for the Otago Climate Change Network (OCCNet) and is also part of a study into academic mobilities with colleagues from the Department of Tourism.


  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
  • Ministry of Transport
Back to top