Is the Driver's License Losing Its Draw?

12:22 PM

Photo by Rusty Clark

Guest post written by MyImprov

Do you remember when you turned 16? Chances are you counted down the days until your birthday so you could finally get your driver’s license. You were ecstatic to finally have independence from your parents and make your first big step into adulthood. However, it seems like teens today just don’t have this same urgency when it comes to getting their licenses. In fact, USA Today reports that only 73% of high school seniors had their license in 2010, compared to 85% in 1996.


Why the dramatic decrease?


There are many reasons that teenagers today don’t have the same desire to become drivers as you did when you were growing up:

  • They don’t have to. Bottom line, if they don’t have a need to get a license, they probably won’t put forth the effort. If they can get rides from their parents or friends, why not just stay a passenger for as long as possible? A lot of teens will also just walk or bike where they need to go, so the cutback in licenses definitely isn’t due to laziness.
  • It’s too expensive. With the entire country still recovering from a recession, it’s no surprise that the cost of driving is a big contributing factor. Whether it is the increased insurance premium or the gas needed to get from point A to point B, a lot of parents simply can’t afford for their teens to drive. And if the teens are made responsible for the expenses, the cost of the privilege is not worth the benefits for many of them.
  • They are too busy. For some reason, teenagers just don’t feel like they have the time to get a license. However, it really just comes down to not making it a priority. You had the same amount of homework, and maybe even a job, when you were a teen and you still found a way. If the desire isn’t there, the driving practice needed to get a license takes a back seat to homework and socializing.
  • It’s not essential. With the Internet at their fingertips, teens just don’t feel as much of a need to get out. Many of them are perfectly content socializing online, and many of them even do their shopping that way. If they aren’t leaving the house, they surely don’t need a car.
Is this good news or bad news?

Sure, having your teenager drive is definitely a nice relief from being the go-to taxi driver for all of your teenager’s activities. However, it is important to remember that car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and drivers ages 16-19 are three times as likely to get into a fatal car crash as drivers over age 20, according to the CDC. With this in mind, it seems like teenager’s new laid-back attitude to getting their licenses may actually be a blessing in disguise. Inconvenient? Absolutely. But if it means your kid doesn’t get into a serious accident, it’s definitely worth the sacrifice.


If your teen does decide to get his or her driver’s license, it is important for the parents to be involved in the teen driver’s education process, including sharing real-life driving knowledge and observing and critiquing their teen’s behind-the-wheel driving efforts.


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17 comments

  1. I'm very happy to not have a teenager with a license yet. We're teaching him. But I didn't get my license until I was 20 and maybe he shouldn't either.

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  2. Nowadays the restrictions on drivers under 18 are pretty extensive, that may be a factor too

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  3. I have a 16 year old and I'm totally ok with him not having a license. I think kids should be a little older anyway.

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  4. One of my nieces has put it off. She is too afraid to drive, and we are all totally ok with that.

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  5. I am kind of happy about this. Less kids on the road and maybe a bit safer for us.

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  6. My brother is 17 & a half and doesn't have a license- he can't afford the insurance!

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  7. I remember being so excited the day I turned 16 because I was able to get my license. I think they need more restrictions but having a way to get yourself to work and school could really be a big help especially if your parents work.

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  8. I have four kids, all of them have their driver's licences. It is very expensive and the cost of the insurance is ridiculous. Some of their friends have not bothered to get their licence, so guess who does a fair bit of the driving when they want to go out? My kids. I don't disagree with kids waiting and, in fact, wouldn't have minded if my kids had waited a little longer. Even at 18 they are more responsible with the car then when they get their licences at 16.

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  9. with the prices of insurance and gas along with maintance on a car none of my kids will be able to afford them so they won't be getting behind the wheel until they get a job and afford that themselves which won't happen until they graduate.

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  10. My daughter just turned 16 and has no interest in getting her license. Between my husband and I driving her around, her boyfriend living down the street and her best friend having a car, she doesn't feel it's necessary. And honestly, I'm not in any rush to spend more on our insurance!

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  11. Driver education is crazy expensive and it has to be scheduled as part of our kids' already busy days. I remember how hard it was to find a round of classes that worked with my extremely active and involved daughter's routine. They did want their licenses at 16 though, but I waited until I felt they were really, really ready.

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  12. I got my license on my 16th birthday. Hopefully my own kids won't be quite as eager. :)

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  13. My daughter will be 18 in April and doesn't have her license yet. Since we homeschool we can't go through the school district and she needs to do lessons at a private school (no way are we teaching her). They are pretty intensive at 4 or 5 days everyday for three weeks, she just can't commit that kind of time between school and her work schedule. Maybe this summer she can do it, but honestly she won't have a car to drive while at university anyway so pushing it off another year isn't a big deal either.

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  14. They say that teen drivers are the most at risk and risky behind the wheel. I think waiting is a good thing for everyone. Although, I liked being able to drive myself when I was sixteen!

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  15. My stepson waited a year because we couldn't pay for the insurance.

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  16. Angela, I had a niece who waiting for a long time too.

    Anne, that will probably be me, some of my boys are already chopping at the bit to get their license, so I don't think they will be one of the ones that wait.

    Tammy, that has been a concern of mine too since we do homeschool. I don't know how we are going to handle that requirement yet.

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  17. I think I'd be fine with my kids not having a license until after high school!

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