Fewer Teens Get Driver’s Licenses


Reaching driving age doesn’t hold the same appeal it once did for young people, with less than half of them applying for a driver’s licenses when they reach legal age. Just 44 percent get their permit within a year of reaching legal age. And over half get their license by age 18. Twenty years ago, 66 percent of 18-year-olds were licensed.

Many factors go into the decline. Some teens won’t even bother because they have no car. Some find it easier to find other means of transportation. And most of all, the cost of auto insurance and gas are far too high.

The AAA research began last year after indications of teenage highway fatalities dramatically increased, mostly among 16 and 17-year-olds.

The age that states issue beginners’ permits range from 14 to 16-years-old and the District allows them at 16. In Virginia at six months after their 15th birthday and in Maryland at nine months after turning 15.

Most states are adopting graduated driver’s license laws. The GDL laws give restrictions to teenagers during their first years of driving. Thirty-one states are banning the use of cellphones, with the District, Maryland, and Virginia being three of them.

All three jurisdictions along with 46 other states restrict nighttime teen driving. They are also among the 47 states with limitations on the number of passengers a teen can have in the car during their first months of driving.

One consequence of waiting until 18-years-old to get a license is that teenagers miss out on the restrictions set in place to guide them through their first months of driving.

President of the nonprofit AAA Foundation, Peter Kissinger, says with 1-in-3 teenagers waiting to get their license, there’s a portion of this generation missing opportunities to learn under the security GDL provides.

Earlier research by the AAA discovered that states with GDL systems had a 38% decrease in fatal crashes involving 16-year-olds. They also found a 40% reduction in accidents resulting in injury.

The results also show that minority and low-income teens are less likely to obtain a driver’s license before 18. Only 25% of teens had got their license before they turned 18 in households with less than $20,000 income. In households making $100,00 income or more, 79% of teens got their license by age 18.

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