Teen Drivers Waiting to get Licenses
It appears that teens today do not share the previous widespread desire to taste freedom by getting a license the day they turn 16 because more and more teens are reportedly waiting to apply for a license until they turn 18.
The amount of high school seniors across the U.S. who have a driver’s license has dropped from 85.3 percent in 1996 to 71.5 percent in 2015. The drop has been the sharpest in the South.
Teens are choosing to wait for varying reasons. Some state that they do not have a car at the age of 16 or the finances to pay for gas and thus, have no use for a license. Others have different modes of transportation that work for them including the school bus, public transportation, ride sharing services (such as Uber and Lyft) and friends with cars. However, the fact that teens are able to bypass the driver’s education courses at the age of 18 is what appeals to them most.
Unfortunately, this new phenomenon is proving to be dangerous to our roads by leading to higher crash rates. Graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs were put into place to protect novice drivers by limiting their exposure to risk initially and gradually phasing in additional driving privileges as they gained experience. These programs seemed to be working as studies show that GDL has significantly reduced the numbers of 16- and 17-year old drivers involved, injured and killed in motor vehicle crashes. By waiting until the age of 18 to get a license, teens are no longer obligated to participate in the GDL and are potentially putting themselves behind the wheel unprepared.
Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for children, teens and young adults in the U.S. Car crashes kill an estimated 5,500 teens each year and teens crash four times more often than adults do.
AAA has worked for nearly two decades to ensure that all states adopt and enforce a comprehensive three-stage GDL system for novice teen drivers. With many teens seeking a license at or after the age of 18, it may be necessary to extend the GDL requirements to an older age group or to any new driver, regardless of age.
The GDL was established in 1996 and has proven to be a beneficial tool for teen drivers. In fact, though the teen population increased from 14.9 million in 1996 (the year the GDL was put into place) to 16.9 million in 2015, the number of drivers in that age group involved in fatal crashes fell by more than half, from 6,021 to 2,898.
However, with fewer and fewer teens participating in the GDL, these numbers are back on the rise. The number of 15-20 year old drivers who died in crashes jumped 10 percent from 2014 to 2015, the first time that number has risen since 2006.
AAA Carolinas encourages all new drivers to enroll in some form of driver education program. AAA Carolinas offers approved driving school including an online course, teen driver course and novice driver course. For more information or to register for a class, please visit our website below.