Most Teens Now Delay Obtaining a Driver's License | Edmunds

Most Teens Now Delay Obtaining a Driver's License

Just the Facts:
  • A new study found that the majority of American teens delay getting a driver's license, a trend that could have major implications for the way cars are designed and marketed.
  • The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study shows that just 44 percent of teens get a driver's license within 12 months of eligibility.
  • Teens are "delaying a rite of passage," the study said.

DEARBORN, Michigan — American teenagers are moving into the slow lane when it comes to getting a driver's license, according to a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

If teenagers are shunning this classic rite of passage, it could have major implications for the way cars are designed and marketed.

Just 44 percent of teens obtained a driver's license within 12 months of eligibility, according to the study. Only 54 percent are licensed before their 18th birthday, raising concern among safety experts that young drivers are missing the benefits intended by graduated drivers licensing (GDL), which stresses extensive practice requirements with a learning permit.

The study shows a significant drop from two decades ago when more than two-thirds of teens were licensed by the time they turned 18.

"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," said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, in a statement.

AAA has recommended for nearly two decades that all states enforce a three-stage (learner's permit, intermediate/probationary license, full/unrestricted license) GDL. Previous AAA Foundation research found that states with comprehensive GDL systems have experienced a 38 percent decrease in fatal crashes involving 16-year-olds and a 40 percent reduction in injury crashes.

Why the delay in getting a license? The top excuse, 44 percent said, is because they didn't have a car. Another 39 percent said they easily get around without wheels. Expensive gas prices and car expenses plagued 36 percent of drivers, while another 35 percent admitted to being procrastinators, saying they "just didn't get around to it." Researchers surveyed 1,039 respondents ages 18-20 nationwide.

The full report is at the AAA Web site.

Edmunds says: A driver's license no longer has the cachet it had even a couple of decades ago.

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