Teenagers Delay Getting Their Driver's Licenses

Filed under: In The News, Weird But True

More kids are fine with their parents doing the driving. Credit: mark.mitchell.brown, Flickr

American teenagers can't wait to get their driver's licenses, right?

Maybe not.

The Washington Post reports that more and more 16-year-olds are putting off getting their driver's licenses -- sometimes indefinitely.

One reason might be technology. Between the Internet and cell phones, the Post reports, many teens no longer see a driver's license as a prerequisite for a social life.

Kat Velkoff, 21, of Chantilly, Md., tells the Post she didn't get her license until last year.

"It just wasn't a priority," she tells the paper. "It was just never the next thing that needed to get done in my life."

According to statistics released Friday by the U.S. Department of Transportation, 30.7 percent of 16-year-olds got their licenses in 2008. Compare with that with 44.7 percent in 1988.

"Driving is real important to a lot of the kids in the culture, but it is not the central focus like it was 25 years ago," Tom Pecoraro tells the Post. Percoraro owns I Drive Smart, a driver education program in the Washington, D.C., area.

"They have so many other things to do now," he adds. With years of being shuttled to sports, lessons and play dates, he tells the Post, "kids are used to being driven."

But, it could be something else: A number of states have put restrictions on driver's licenses for teens -- regulating when and where they can drive by themselves and the type and number of passengers they can have in the car.

Rob Foss, the director of the Center for the Study of Young Drivers at the University of North Carolina, tells the Post those restrictions could be a factor. So could cutbacks in driver's education programs in public schools, he adds. Some parents have to shell out $300 to $600 for private driving lessons.

Then there's gas and insurance.

"In this economy, if my daughter were to drive, just the insurance would be $1,200 a year or more, and that's a lot of money," Elizabeth Walker of Rockville, Md., the mother of a reluctant driver, tells the Post.

Wylie Conlon, 17, a senior at Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md., tells the Post he has a learner's permit but would have to log 60 hours of practice behind the wheel to get his license. That would take too much time away from advanced placement classes, the rowing team and literary magazine.

"It's hard to spend all that time on driving when I can get places without it," he tells the Post. "Most of my friends don't have driver's licenses, and the few who do end up giving rides to the rest of us."

Natalie Perez-Duel, a 16-year-old junior at Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, Md, tells the Post the same story.

"It's one more thing to study for, and it's just a hassle," she tells the paper.

She doesn't mind relying on her parents? "They have always driven me, and they still do, so it's not that weird," she tells the Post.

But what about parents? Some parents look forward to their kid turning 16 so they can retire from their job as unpaid taxi driver.

But Cindy Wei, 55, of Herndon, Md., tells the Post she doesn't mind driving her daughter around.

"I wanted her safe as long as possible," Wei tells the paper. "If it means I have to give up watching TV for 15 minutes so she can get a ride across town, I'm happy to do it."

Related: Woman Passes Driver's Exam on 950th Try, Decals for Teen Drivers?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.