Teens are delaying getting drivers licenses

The majority of American teens today delay getting a driver’s license, according to new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Less than half (44 percent) of teens obtain a driver’s license within 12 months of the minimum age for licensing in their state and just over half (54 percent) are licensed before their 18th birthday, causing concern among safety experts that young adult drivers are missing the benefits intended by graduated drivers licensing (GDL).

These findings mark a significant drop from two decades ago when data showed more than two-thirds of teens were licensed by the time they turned 18.

“For most, it’s about not having a car or having alternatives for getting around that are the top reasons cited for delaying what has traditionally been considered to be a rite of passage,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Contrary to some expectations, survey results suggest that few teens wait until 18 simply to avoid graduated driver licensing. Instead, a number of other reasons for delaying licensure were cited, including:

  • 44 percent – Did not have a car
  • 39 percent – Could get around without driving
  • 36 percent – Gas was too expensive
  • 36 percent – Driving was too expensive
  • 35 percent – “Just didn’t get around to it”

AAA South Dakota believes lawmakers should examine South Dakota’s GDL system, which ends once teens turn 18, to determine if the law can be modified to improve safety for 18-plus age drivers.

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.

The researchers surveyed a nationally-representative sample of 1,039 respondents ages 18-20. The full research report and survey results can be found on the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Web site.

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