Survey: majority of US teens delaying getting a driver’s license

August 2nd, 2013 - by DKRPA

For perhaps the first time in at least two decades, a majority of teenagers in the U.S. — 66 percent — are putting off getting licensed until at least a year after they become eligible. By the time they reach age 18, only 54 percent of American teens have a driver’s license.

While their lack of enthusiasm may come as a surprise, there’s more at stake. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which performed the survey, this trend could bring about an increase in car accidents because teens are missing out on the driver-training experiences offered by the graduated driver’s licensing system. Previous research by the group shows that when states have passed graduated driver’s license laws for teens, they have seen reductions in serious and fatal car accidents among 16-year-old drivers averaging around 40 percent.

Like those of many states, Florida’s graduated driver’s license law, or GDL, is designed so that inexperienced teen drivers can benefit from staggered periods of supervised training with gradual increases in responsibility. Here’s basically how it works:

  • Teens aged 15, 16 and 17 are required to take driver’s education, apply for a learner’s permit and complete 50 hours of driving supervised by a licensed adult.
  • 16- and 17-year-olds can then get a Class E restricted driver’s license, which limits the teen’s driving to daylight hours with a licensed adult in the front seat. After three months with no problems, the daylight-hours restriction is lifted and the teen can drive at night, with gradual increases in how late.
  • 18-year-olds can apply for an unrestricted Class E license regardless of previous experience.

“With one in three teens waiting to get their license until they turn 18, there’s a segment of this generation missing opportunities to learn under the safeguards that GDL provides,” says the foundation’s CEO.
The group found that the most common reason for delaying driver’s licensure by far was expense. Only 25 percent of teens with family incomes of less than $20,000 had driver’s licenses before age 18. Whatever the reason, however, Florida could be in for traffic safety trouble if too few young drivers obtain their licenses through the graduated driver’s license program.
AAA Newsroom, “Teens Delaying Licensure-A Cause for Concern?” Nancy White, August 1, 2013, “Applying for a New License (Teen Drivers) in Florida”