Teens’ desire to obtain driver’s license declining

When I was a teenager, I couldn’t wait until I turned 16 and became eligible to get my driver’s license. Most of my friends felt the same way.

In fact, although it was illegal, my father would take me on a very back road with almost no traffic and let me drive before I was 16. In addition, in my early teens I worked on a farm in Plattsburgh and would do anything to drive the tractor. The day I turned 16, I was obtaining my permit from the Department of Motor Vehicles office.

Today, this desire to get one’s license at the earliest possible time has declined, according to an article in the June 27 edition of Status Report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In a recent survey of 15,000 high school seniors by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the proportion of seniors who reported having a license fell from 85 percent in 1996 to 73 percent in 2012. Furthermore, the proportion of seniors who reported that they didn’t drive during an average week rose from 15 percent in 1996 to 22 percent in 2010. Why is this?

Economic factors can affect the timing of licensure, the authors of the study note. According to the IIHS article, in a national survey of 15- to 18-year-olds conducted in November 2010 for the Allstate Foundation, most teens said they would like to get a license as soon as possible, but many hadn’t started the process. This was the case for a third of 16-year-olds and nearly a quarter of 17- to 18-year-olds. Teens old enough to drive but not yet licensed cited not having a car and the cost of driving as leading reasons for the delay. Many also said they had no need to drive, were busy with other activities or their parents were too busy to teach them.

Teens today are growing up with the Internet, social media and mobile technology. Some have posited that this constant connectedness reduces teens’ need to interact face to face with their peers, according to the article in Status Report, compared with prior generations, like mine, that considered a license a ticket to outings with friends, transport to school and job opportunities.

Others suggest that teens are waiting until they are 18 to bypass graduated driver licensing requirements.

While on the subject of GDL, it’s common knowledge that GDL reduces deaths and injuries among younger drivers. An analysis by the Highway Loss Data Institute found that collision claim frequencies were lower not only for 16- to 17-year-old drivers but also for 18- to 19-year-olds.

Often described as a model for young driver licensing laws, New Jersey has an intermediate licensing age of 17, the oldest in the nation. The state also applies full GDL restrictions to novice drivers ages 18, 19 and 20. Another unique feature is a requirement that drivers in the system display red, reflective decals on their front and rear license plates. The idea is to help police easily identify their license status in order to enforce driving and passenger restrictions. New Jersey’s approach has been associated with significant reductions in the crash rates for 17- and 18-year-olds and has virtually eliminated crashes among 16-year-olds, without adversely affecting crash rates for 19-year-olds.

From the perspective of safety, the longer a teen delays licensure, the better. I’ll be interested to see if this trend continues. Thanks go to the IIHS for the statistics presented in this article. This organization (www.iihs.org) is a wonderful source for traffic safety information.

For more articles on traffic law and safety, go to the traffic safety board’s website at www.franklincony.org, click on “Traffic Safety Board” under “departments,” and then look for “Did You Know” articles under “services.”