Local News

Fewer 16-year-olds getting driver's licenses

Posted January 25, 2010

— The number of teens getting their full provisional driver's license dropped by 5 percent in the last three years, according to the state Division of Motor Vehicles.

The decline is part of a nationwide trend. Data released Friday by the Federal Highway Administration shows 30 percent of 16-year-olds got their licenses in 2008, compared with 44 percent in 1988.

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Rob Foss, the director of the Center for the Study of Young Drivers, part of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, said part of the decline can be attributed to laws that make getting a driver's license more time-consuming. North Carolina's graduated license program for teen drivers is a three-stage system that lasts at least 18 months and includes limits on when teens can drive by themselves and who can be in the car with them.

Others said the time needed to learn how to drive and even social networking are delaying the push for driver's licenses among some teens.

"A lot of time, students are involved in extracurricular activities, and they simply can't make the time to take driver's ed," said William Powell of Jordan Driving School.

Powell also said tough economic times have put the brakes on teen drivers, and the number of crashes involving teen drivers has made parents more cautious about allowing their children to drive by themselves.

With Facebook and text messaging, some say, cars aren't as much of a necessity for teens to interact with their friends.

"There is a football coach at my school who always makes fun of us because all we do is talk on the Internet to girls instead of going up to meet them and pick them up," said Hunter Williams, a 16-year-old Athens Drive High School student who is trying to get his license.

Greg Lipa, another Athens Drive High student, said social networking could never replace the freedom allowed by a driver's license.

"I think Facebook has made it a little easier, but seeing your friends is the way to do it, driving and seeing them, going and doing stuff with them," Lipa said.


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  • Remy Jan 27, 2010

    time4real - "in reality! it's called being responsible as a parent!"

    If you are the responsible parent you claim to be, your child should be ready to drive well before 21. Do you actually plan on making your children wait until 21 to drive? It will be interesting to hear how much YOU like driving your children around until they are 21. Good luck with that! Try to come back to the real world because its "time 4 real".

  • fuzzmom Jan 26, 2010

    momof2, i should probably clarify. Not all kids are ready to do the same things at the same age. Your teen may not be ready, but some parents won't even entertain letting their kids drive because they think 16 is too young across the board.

  • APXmom Jan 26, 2010

    I doubt social networking tools have much to do with it. More parents are out of work, and insurance, parking permits, gas for a teenage driver definitely fall into the 'disposable income' category when things are tight. Even if you don't foot the bill for an extra car, it adds up, and if they have an accident be prepared to pay a lot more, not to mention the risk of being dropped by your insurance carrier.

  • momof2 Jan 26, 2010

    My 16 year is just not ready to drive. It's not just about finances but about responsibility and maturity. I want him to understand that driving is a privilage, not a right.

  • fuzzmom Jan 26, 2010

    ambergail1, I agree with you totally! edits, you only prove something they touched on but didn't clarify. There are a lot of helicopter parents who won't let their kids drive, and you sound like one of them. I for one could not sacrifice another evening of schelpping around a teen with 20 billion activities. Maybe you don't mind, but some of us want to have time to do things for ourselves or better yet the rest of the family by letting the teens schlep themselves. Never mind, some of those teens actually help the families by running errands for others. Cost is definitely an issue, but being able to drive also frees up the ability that teen to get out and work and help pay for the insurance. However, those same helicopter parents probably won't let the teens work either.

  • cubed32696 Jan 26, 2010

    OR they can wait until they are 18, get their license and take off driving without any driving experience at all. All they need to do is pass the driving test. No learner's permit, no nothing. That's what two of my neighbors did. Now this is scary.

    I believe that anyone -- 18 or 88 -- when getting their license for the first time need restrictions of some sort.

  • Gatsby Jan 26, 2010

    The 16yr old age limit is outdated and should be raised. My guess is that the only reason it has not been addressed already is that a lobbyist somewhere is protecting a cash cow's (Insurance? Car dealers?) interest. I have raised 2 children and both guys were fine waiting until they were 17+ to drive because even at 16 they understood the dangers of the road in today's world. In 1950...a 16 year old had the whole road to learn and make mistakes on with-out paying the ultimate price but today? Capital Blvd @ 5:30 on Friday afternoon...enough said.
    The insurance industry knew kids were waiting longer because now it does not matter if you are 16 or 39 when you first get behind the wheel...You will pay dearly for the first 3 years.

  • time4real Jan 26, 2010

    "But Ole' Bev is not allowed to have her vacation?"

    she can have it after her one and only term is over and since she's accountable to the public, the public deserves to know when she wipes her rump, where and how long!

  • time4real Jan 26, 2010

    "Where in the world do you live that you think a 20 year old could survive in america without a car?"

    in reality! it's called being responsible as a parent!

  • freedomgal Jan 26, 2010

    Some teens have to wait to drive because their parents can't afford the Car Ins. ---- and the 125.00 to 150.00 parking fee the High School charges them each year.