Today’s teens seem to be in no hurry to drive

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Young people say they have plenty of other mobility options

Since the advent of the automobile, generations of teenagers couldn’t wait to get their driver’s license. A license to drive meant freedom and the open road.

But these days, mobility doesn’t seem quite as enticing. A few years ago, Brandon Schoettle of General Motors developed a questionnaire for teens who were old enough to drive but who did not have a driver’s license. Schoettle wanted to know why.

The top eight reasons given for not having a driver’s license were:

  1. Too busy or not enough time to get a driver's license

  2. Owning and maintaining a vehicle is too expensive

  3. Able to get transportation from others

  4. Prefer to bike or walk

  5. Prefer to use public transportation

  6. Concerned about how driving impacts the environment

  7. Able to communicate and/or conduct business online instead

  8. Disability/medical/vision problems

22 percent plan to never drive

Twenty-two percent of the respondents went so far as to say they planned to never obtain a driver’s license. About 69 percent said they would get a license eventually.

When compared to their peers of the same age, those without a driver’s license tended to be less educated and more unemployed. That could suggest economics is a factor in their decision and put strong emphasis on answer number two.

Whether or not money is the main factor, the answers tend to suggest that driving simply isn’t a big deal for today’s teenagers and even young adults. But economics can’t be overlooked.

The Wall Street Journal points to the rising cost of both new and used vehicles. Earlier this year the average transaction price of a new car surpassed $37,000. Both Ford and GM have eliminated or cut back on the small sedans they produce, pouring their efforts instead into trucks and SUVs, which have a higher profit margin.

Driving classes getting older

Brent Wall, who operates a driving school in Michigan, told The Journal that the kids in his classes are older than they were a decade ago. Some had to be pushed by their parents to learn to drive a car.

One possible reason the researchers haven’t advanced is that the road is a much scarier place than it was 10 or 20 years ago. There is more traffic moving at faster rates of speed.

When researchers at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's (CHOP) Center for Injury Research and Prevention and the University of Pennsylvania set up a driving simulator with real-world hazardous driving scenarios, young drivers didn’t do so well.

During the 35-minute simulation, which incorporated 22 variations of the most common ways teen drivers crash, nearly 43 percent of teen drivers who had their licenses three months or less recorded at least one crash in the simulator.

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