Gone are the days when most 16-year-olds consider their first driver's license a rite of passage.
Despite the traditional view that teens are eager to drive as soon as possible, more young adults are voluntarily delaying licensure.
Less than half (44 percent) of teens obtain a driver's license within 12 months of the minimum age for licensing in their state, according to a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. And only 54 percent are licensed before their 18th birthday.
These findings mark a significant drop from two decades ago when data showed more than two-thirds of teens were licensed by the time they turned 18, AAA reported.
Why the wait? Most who delay licensure say it is due to financial constraints or a lack of opportunity or interest:
- 44 percent did not have a car.
- 39 percent could get around without driving.
- 36 percent said gas was too expensive.
- 36 percent said driving was too expensive.
- 35 percent "Just didn't get around to it."
"The reasons listed are obviously quite practical reasons," says Gail Weinholzer, director of public affairs for AAA Minnesota/Iowa. "It's the cost of gas, the cost of buying a car and the cost of insurance."
And many teens, especially those in metropolitan areas, have plenty of other ways to get around – including ridesharing, the practice of reaching out to others for a ride.
Bob Nicks, indirect senior lending consultant at Dupaco, says ridesharing has its advantages. It's a lot cheaper, so young would-be drivers can save money before they have their own car payments and gas bills. Ridesharing also cuts down on air pollution.
But Nicks says the trend has not reached the tri-state area.
Despite the financial benefits that ridesharing offers, safety experts are concerned that young adult drivers are missing the benefits intended by graduated drivers licensing, which has reduced young-driver crashes.
"Teens aren't experiencing graduated licensing laws, which are intended to maximize experience while minimizing risk," Weinholzer says. "Our concern isn't as much about whether they buy a car as it is with the process of adapting to safe driving."
By Emily Kittle