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Fewer Drivers are Licensed at 16

Published Apr 8th 2008, 9:49pm by

Driver_ed When I was in high school, we all took our driver’s test the day we turned 16. None of us wanted to wait a day longer than necessary to get that taste of freedom. It was a major rite of passage for all of us. But in the last decade, the number of 16-year-olds who get a driver’s license has dropped from half to less than one-third, according to Federal Highway Administration statistics.

The reasons vary, but higher insurance costs and fewer school-run driver education programs are big contributors. In California, teens need instruction and practice hours in order to get a license before 18. And forget school driver’s ed. You must pay for (expensive) private instruction. Insurance costs are almost prohibitive, too, costing up to 100 percent more to add a teen driver.

Laws that delay a full license until teens get experience driving with a parent are also slowing the number of 16-year-olds with licenses. But those laws, according to studies, reduce fatalities for young drivers.

When I learned to drive, we still had driver’s ed classes in high school. And since it was a farm area, a lot of us had ample practice time. But our daughter grew up in California and driving laws are much more restrictive. She did not get her license at 16. Like many teens, she relied on us to take her places, or her friends to give her a ride. Our public transportation isn’t too bad, either, so she could always fall back on riding the bus if an event wasn’t too late at night.

Between private instruction and insurance costs, I think a lot of parents are encouraging their teens to wait a while to get a license. I admit that we did, because insurance is already so high. At the time, we couldn’t afford to have our insurance double. And when our son is finally old enough to drive, it’ll be even worse. Boys still cost more than girls, although the gap is closing.

When your child turns 16, will you encourage him or her to get a license, or will you help them practice more before getting a full license?

[Source: NYT]

Photo by meeshy meesh licensed under Creative Commons.

Becky_headshot_2 By Becky Scott
Contributing Editor

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