Are Americans Putting the Brakes on Driving?

teendrivingIt used to be getting your driver’s license was a rite of passage and freedom;however, today teens are in no hurry to get a driver’s license. A University of Michigan study shows that in 1983, 69% of 17-year-olds had their license compared to 46% in 2010.

According to recent AAA survey where respondents could select multiple options, there were many reasons why teens delay getting their licenses:

  • Did not have a car — 44%
  • Could get around without driving — 39%
  • Gas was too expensive — 36%
  • Driving was too expensive — 36%
  • Didn’t get around to it — 35%
  • Nervous about driving — 30%

Some teens fear driving due to distracted driving like texting while driving, drunk driving, and the unpredictability of, and interaction with, other drivers. Others fear driving around large trucks and 18-wheelers and fear confusing road construction and work zone areas.

Many blame the economy and the high price of gas and not being able to afford a car. Others blame a lack of drivers’ education programs in schools and tougher Graduated Drivers Licenses (GDL), where teens need more hours behind the wheel with an adult and drivers under the age of 18 can’t drive with friends unless accompanied by an adult.

Technology is another reason. Many youths are more interested in phones, social media and texting to stay connected than getting licenses and driving to see each other. Technology allows almost everything to be at their fingertips. When teens do need to travel they rely on their parents, siblings, friends with licenses, and even a new social media trend called “Cyber Hitchhiking.” Teens will use social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, messaging, etc., to get a ride by asking their online friends to pick them up.

Even with the decline in the number of teens getting their driver’s license, motor vehicle accidents are still the leading cause of death for U.S. Teens. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2010, about 2,700 teens in the United States aged 16–19 were killed and almost 282,000 were treated and released from emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes.

Parents continue to play a pivotal role and are great influencers in their teen’s driving habits; however, they must remember to drive and lead by example, as your teens are watching you and witnessing your potentially dangerous driving habits.