Why Teens Aren’t Driving and What They’re Missing Out On

teen on bike

Photo by Justine Reyes via Flickr

Driving has always been a rite of passage in America, and getting a driver license is one of the most important milestones of the teenage years. But recently, it seems that teens just aren’t as interested in driving like they used to be. According to federal census and highway data, only 27 percent of 16-year-olds are getting their licenses compared with 46 percent in 1983. It wasn’t too long ago that teens could barely wait to get their license on their 16th birthday. These days, teens have other things on their mind. So what’s the reason behind this shift and what are license-less teens missing out on?

Reasons Teens Skip the DMV

According to researchers at the University of Michigan, the biggest reason that teens aren’t getting their licenses is because they’re simply too busy. A lack of free time was the excuse given by about 37 percent of respondents who just “hadn’t gotten around to it.” Among the 600 license-less young adults who were interviewed, about 32 percent said that having a vehicle was too expensive, 31 percent said they could use someone else to drive them, 20 percent said they preferred biking and walking, and 17 percent preferred public transportation. Other lesser reasons cited by teens included environmental concerns and the fact that being connected enough through electronic devices made physical travel less necessary.

Influences of the Generational Shift

One of the biggest influences of this generational shift is the state of the U.S. economy. Finding work as a teenager was once as simple as walking into the local supermarket, coffee shop, or fast food restaurant and asking for an application. But as older adults have been laid off in their careers, there’s been a trickle-down effect that leaves teenagers jobless and short on cash. Social media, remote work opportunities, and virtual experiences are keeping more and more teenagers indoors and glued to menagerie of screens. With so many services and personal needs being fulfilled over the Internet and through mobile apps, the need to travel has become somewhat less of a priority. A study published in Entrepreneur reported that he average millennial spends 18 hours a day consuming media and often multiple forms at once. It’s no wonder that teens feel pressed for time if that many hours are devoted to devices!

How Teens Are Missing Out

There’s a sense of freedom and responsibility that goes hand-in-hand with obtaining a driver’s license, and without this milestone, these important life lessons are lost. Getting a license means being one step closer to independence, even if it only looks like a piece of laminated plastic on the surface. If you hate being treated like a child, this is an ideal time to step up your game and show your loved ones how you can share in family responsibilities and take care of yourself. Research has shown that by starting to drive early, you actually reduce your risk of accidents over time. The parental supervision, extensive driving practice, and behind-the-wheel experience involved in teen driver training sets you up for success for a lifetime on the road. Increased responsibility leads to increased self-esteem and peer respect, which are definitely things that many teens could use a boost in these days. To learn more about getting you first license, head over to First Time Driver and select your state!


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