Fewer teens getting early driver licenses

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Teen Drivers

More and more teens are choosing to use internet access instead of getting keys. Image: Flickr / k9d / CC-BY

A driver’s license used to be the ultimate symbol of freedom for teenagers. Studies, however, have started to show that teenagers are waiting longer to start driving.

New driving statistics

According to new research from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute shows that more and more teens are waiting to get their driver’s licenses. In 2008, 31 percent of 16-year-olds had their licenses, in comparison to 46 percent in 1983. By the age of 18, 65 percent of teens have their licenses, in comparison to 80 percent in 1983. According to the Department of Transportation, there were 203 million licensed drivers older than 19 in the United States in 2006, and the census reported 226 million people of that age, which works out to about 89 percent of individuals with driver’s licenses.

[When a teen does choose to drive, a vehicle from Atlanta, GA, Toyota can help keep them safe.]

Factors in the reduction

There are multiple reasons many teens are choosing to opt out of driver’s licensing. The MTRI cites increased internet access as one reason because teens are able to connect and interact with friends outside of parental supervision without needing to drive. Improved public transportation options are also a factor cited in the study. Many states are also putting restrictions on teen drivers, including number of hours driven, number of passengers and even radio volume. In short, in the face of stronger restrictions and increased connection options, teens are simply choosing to not drive.

Effects of fewer teen drivers

With fewer teen drivers on the road, some of the best-known statistics about driving are changing. Teen drivers are more likely to get into crashes for a variety of reasons, so fewer teen drivers could mean there will be fewer accidents. At the same time, new drivers, no matter what the age, are often at a higher risk of accidents and misjudgements on roadways. The final effects of fewer teen drivers could be an increased focus on public transportation and infrastructure that takes driving, walking and cycling into account.


Department of Transportation
USA Today
Chicago Sun-Times Skokie Review

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