Unlike in the past, the majority of teenagers in the U.S. put off getting a driver’s license.
Just 44 percent of teenagers obtain their license within a year of becoming the eligible age, while only 54 percent of 18-year-olds are licensed. For contrast, two decades ago the number of 18-year-olds with a license was two thirds, illuminating the change in mindset.
But what is causing this change? According to a poll by AAA, the most common reason that teens have is poor access to cars. That was the claim made by 44 percent of the teenagers polled, while the next most popular reason is public transit. Finally, cost was cited as a major reason, with teens saying that gas, and driving in general is too expensive.
Family finances definitely play a major role in the decision too, as 25 percent of teens living in a house with less than $20,000 worth of income had a license before they were 18, while 79 percent of teens from houses that net over $100,000 had their license before 18.
“For a range of reasons, young adults increasingly are getting licensed without the benefit of parental supervision, extensive practice and gaining experience under less risky conditions that are the hallmark of a safety-focused licensing system,” said AAA director of state relations Justin McNaull.
An issue raised from this lack of new drivers is the legitimacy of the graduated drivers licensing system (GLD) in place in many states. It is meant to better educate drivers by introducing them to the roads slowly, through a process that starts with a learners permit, moves up to a probationary license and finally into a full license. Almost all of these programs end for those above 18, meaning that many teenagers don’t enjoy the benefits of such a system.
“Researchers and policymakers should examine whether existing state GDL systems – nearly all of which end once a teen turns 18 – can be modified to improve safety for these young adult novice drivers,” McNaull said.