Historically, a driver’s license meant freedom and access to the open road, where teens could escape the grip of their parents with newly-gained mobility, cruising their way towards adulthood. Ah, times, they are a-changin’. In recent years, a shift in US teen driving habits has seen teens in no rush to attain their drivers licenses. Some contributing factors: low wages, a poor economy, overpriced vehicles, and the advent of ridesharing services.
Licensed to Drive
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Census Bureau, the number of teens (ages 16-19) getting driver’s licenses has significantly declined since peaking in 1983. By 2011, just over 50% of this demographic obtained a driver’s license, and that number has steadily decreased in the years since. A survey by the University of Michigan revealed 83.5% of high school seniors had driver’s licenses in 1996, but only 71.5% of them did in 2015. This record low indicates teens are simply not as interested in driving. So why the shift?
You Don’t Need a Car to Go Online
Contemporary teens have the world at the fingertips — literally. Technology provides instant access to friends and entertainment. Teens’ need to escape their parents can now be achieved in the comfort of their bedrooms, where they can hang out with friends on social media or play a variety of multiplayer online games.
No Job, No Money, No Car
In the past decade, teenagers have been some of the worst hit with regard to job opportunities. Employment among teens is low while cars are, well, expensive luxury items this generation’s not accustomed to, nor do they seem to care about.
What little income teens do have, they want to consume differently than generations before them. If given the choice between spending their hard-earned money on car payments, insurance premiums, maintenance, and gas, or purchasing their latest favorite game and indulging in other experiences, the latter wins the majority of the time.
No Car, No Problem
Add to the equation the rise of alternative transportation methods and it’s no surprise teens are not clamoring to get their licenses. Between ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, and electric scooter-sharing services like Revel and Lime, kids can get where they need to go with relative ease – and a lot less expense.