Fewer Teens Are Getting Their Drivers License


Although Barry is 17 years old, he still does not have a driver’s license. The Silicon Valley high school student just doesn’t feel the need. He walks to stores near his neighborhood, gets rides with friends or takes a, you guess it, Uber or Lyft ride. Asked when he might get it, Barry responds “maybe when I’m in college, but I’m not sure. It’s sort of a big hassle, and right now, I don’t have the time to get it and don’t feel the need.”

Barry is not alone. This trend seems to be happening all over the U.S. In fact, recent studies point this out. High school American seniors, with a driver’s license, dipped from over 85% back in 1996 to 71% in 2015, based on a survey conducted by the University of Michigan. This is almost a 20% drop, that amounts to millions of young people not getting licensed.

The South had the biggest rate drop. Seniors who obtained a driver’s license went from 89% down to 71% from 1996 to 2015. The part of the country that has the most licensed teens is the Midwest, with over 80%. The area with the least licensed seniors is the Northeast, at a rate of about 65%.

Many Teens Just Can’t Afford a Car 
Another reason could be attributed to many states imposing strict new rules on teens that make it more difficult to get a license. Some states like Florida require hours of supervised driver training. This has had an impact on teenagers who find the process cumbersome and intimidating.

Part of the reason is simply economic. During the great recession, many teens lost their jobs or just couldn’t afford the high cost of operating an automobile. This includes things like gasoline and auto insurance. As AllianceInsurance.net points out, teens pay on average more than double the car insurance rates than adults over 40 do. Also, insurance premiums for this group of drivers are on the rise due to a number of reasons, like distracted driving, which is causing a big spike in auto accidents. For some teens, they can easily pay over $2,000 per year for basic coverage, which is money most just don’t have.

Teens are the Most Dangerous Drivers of any Age Group

Teenagers aged 16 to 19 are 300% more likely to get into a fatal accident than drivers over 30. This is one of the reasons they pay so much for auto insurance coverage. Most teens are addicted to their smartphones and don’t put them down when they drive, resulting in devastating accidents, that often result in death. There are over 17 million teenagers in the USA, and almost all of them have a cellphone attached to them 24/7. Even while driving, teen just can’t put their devices down.

With the rise of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, many teens don’t see the need to get a driver’s license. They can take a ride to the mall for $9 and not worry about the cost of gas or high auto insurance costs.

According to a recent survey conducted by AAA Insurance, the biggest reason most teens don’t get a driver’s license is purely economic. It just costs too much money for many youths to take care of a car. In some areas, like California and New York, gasoline costs alone can be overwhelming, let alone the high cost maintaining a vehicle. Teens look at these expenses as burdensome, and many don’t even bother to get a license. In addition, many teens can group together and split the cost of rideshare, making a trip to the movies or mall cheaper than driving their own vehicle.

Graduated Licensing Requirements are Having an Effect

In an effort to curb teen accidents, most states like Florida, have passed strict graduating license measures. Restrictions have also been placed on teens for things like nighttime driving and having teen passengers, which is proven to increase risky driving. These licensing laws have saved thousands of teen lives. It’s estimated that in Florida alone, deaths have dropped by 10%, by implementing tougher graduated license laws.

These laws are also discouraging teens from getting licensed sooner, while some are forgoing getting a license altogether. Also, on the near horizon is driverless cars, which will completely revolutionize the automotive industry. It’s already happening in some areas like Silicon Valley.

Some teens already don’t see the need to get a license because in a few years almost all cars will be autonomous. The next generation of teens might just order their driverless ride with their smartphone and not even bother with ever getting a license, because there simply won’t be a need to drive. That future is fast becoming a reality.