Why Aren’t Young People Getting Their Drivers’ Licenses?

Hi Folks — This study is totally fascinating. As if Detroit didn’t have enough worries, now, according to the WNYC blog Transportation Nation:

Young people aren’t lining up to drive like they used to. Year over year, fewer 16 to 24 year-olds are getting driver’s licenses according to a new study released today by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.

Take 16 year-olds: In 2008, 31 percent of them got driver’s licenses. In 2010 it fell to 28 percent. That’s part of a steady trend the researchers track back to 1983. That’s when Return of the Jedi, Scarface and The Outsiders were in theaters, and 46 percent of 16 year-olds were licensed to drive. Now, with Netflix and iTunes, they don’t need wheels to get to the movies.

Now, I’m hoping that part of the reason for this decline is that, as the article goes on to suggest, more young folks are taking public transportation, or riding their bikes. But even if that’s true, it’s surely only part of the picture. The other part may be directly attributable to the lack of Free-Range Kids.

If young people don’t want the independence a driver’s license affords, it could be because they have never experienced independence, period. With only about 10% of kids walking to school, and one study showing under 10% playing outside on their own any given week, kids are under constant surveillance when they’re outside, and more often, they’re inside.  Any spirit of adventure is stifled, stomped or steered into a supervised activity. Wings are clipped.

Maybe they never grow back. — L

Man, I wish my mom was driving me.

Man, I wish my mom was driving me.

 

P.S. On another note, I changed the layout of the blog because the old template was loading very slowly and needed to be ditched.

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101 Responses to Why Aren’t Young People Getting Their Drivers’ Licenses?

  1. Craig August 21, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    Some kids are ‘afraid’ to drive. Probably many are the same ones that got helicoptered about all the dangers of this and that.

    Our daughter got her permit on her 15th birthday – drove on a highway the next weekend. She got her license on her 16th birthday and drove 2 hours to a college campus 4 days later to attend a sports camp. All our friends gasped in shock. We knew she was a good driver and could drive the route (she had driven it with us on her permit a few times). The boost to her self-confidence was apparent.

  2. QuicoT August 21, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    For once I find myself in disagreement with the post – way too speculative at this point. I’d look to gas prices, the falling real value of the minimum wage and declining middle-class disposable income first: letting teens drive just isn’t a financially realistic option for normal families these days. But without research to look specifically at the problem, it’s all speculation.

  3. Easy solution August 21, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    Yet, this young man, from Detroit, saw this same problem and started a business to help the city of Detroit! This is an amazing story of a young man who stood up and did something! I’d love to hear about his Free-range childhood! http://www.upworthy.com/first-he-got-furious-when-his-neighbors-couldnt-get-to-work-then-did-something-marvelous-about-it?g=2&c=ufb1

  4. Ron Wood August 21, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    I’m sure there’s a free-range aspect to it but, it’s also harder to get a license these days, compared to when I got one, because the state where I live makes them jump through so many hoops and there are so many restrictions on when they can drive. And, you used to be able to go in on Saturdays now it’s 8-5 weekdays.

  5. brian August 21, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    Insurance cost is another huge factor. Adding a driver in the household automatically adds to the insurance bill. Another factor is that with current DUI laws, many kids know they can’t drive when they go out. There is a growing walking culture which makes having a license/car less important.

  6. Teresa August 21, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    I don’t think it’s all on the kids. I was chomping at the bit to get my license at 16, but my parents were afriad to let me. The big bad scary world was out to run me over and such. They did the same thing with my sister and brother as well. so, while there may be kids afraid to drive, there are also parents who are afriad to let them.

  7. pentamom August 21, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    Insurance is, I think, proportionately more expensive than it used to be. Also, a lot of state laws have made it so that a kid has to spend many supervised hours behind the wheel before attempting the road test. That slows down the process as well.

    All of these things, as well as kids being more used to sticking close to home and parents being more willing to do everything for their kids and supervise their every moment, probably combine.

  8. Becky August 21, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    Lots of factors, one of which is less desire for freedom. But others:

    1) No teen jobs means they can’t afford to buy a car and/or insurance

    2) Insurance for a teen driver is SOO high that many families don’t want the rate hike if the teen realistically won’t have much access to a car (if they don’t have their own and parents are on the go, you’re paying a ton in insurance for not a lot of use).

    3) Drivers licenses cost a lot to get in some states. Since drivers ed is no longer part of school in many places, families need to pay a private company for drivers ed — either to get a license at all or to get remotely decent insurance rates.

    4) Drivers licenses have a ton of restrictions on drivers under 18 in many states, again making them less desirable than they once were. If you can’t drive at certain times of day, can’t have any passengers, etc. they are not a useful.

  9. Elizabeth August 21, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    I graduated high school in 2004 without a driver’s license. Reason being was that I had no reason to drive. I lived in a city where everything you needed or wanted to go was a short bus ride away or you could walk there. Plus my parents didn’t have the money to get another car and pay the rates they give to new drivers. Teens who had cars and could drive around on their own were actually the more privelaged ones.

  10. Rachel August 21, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    It would be interesting to compare rising insurance costs with these numbers. For some families, it’s just too expensive to add another driver – esp. a teen driver! Also, many states have created a graduated license system so having a license with the same driving privileges we had at 16 is no longer available. Lots of variables in this situation that may or may not free-range related.

  11. KLY August 21, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    I have a lot of younger friends/family, and in my observations it is NOT due to an upswing in alternate transportation use. I know a ridiculous amount of people in their 20’s who still aren’t driving, or who weren’t until recently, and a lot of it seems to come down to their being *afraid* to try. My goddaughter was one of them, and so we sorta ambushed her with lessons and a driving test and made her do it, because it was ridiculous that I had to schedule in picking the girl up from community college along with my usual daily errands and such. (No, not kidding.) There also seems to be a serious lack of motivation, because kids just don’t *go* places. Some of it is the couch-potato trend, and some of it seems to be the fact that parents don’t encourage things like independence and getting a job. I definitely think a lot of it stems from the fact that many parents I know act get panicky at the idea that their kids might be out there, driving on their own. “They just aren’t as mature as we were when we were that age!” Hah! If that’s true, I wonder why that might be. (Not really. I have a darn good idea.)

    Now, I am not saying that my just-turned-14 yr old daughter already has the basic driving skills down (*ahem*), but I will say that our attitude has been that once a kid can reach the pedals, there is very little reason not to start adding that to their “in case of emergency” skill set. (We also have a lot of family in/from more “country” areas, and that is sort of a Thing.)

  12. Ann August 21, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    My children are still too young to drive, but I have noticed this trend with alarming frequency in my friends’ high school age children. For most of them, the costs (insurance, gas, etc.) is not the issue. It is that the kids DO NOT WANT to drive. It baffles me. When I was in high school, it was humiliating if you were a freshman, and your parent had to drop you off at football games and school dances. You always tried to catch a ride with an upper classman. On your 16th birthday, you went for your license. Period. Always. That very day. I don’t understand kids not wanting the independence of being able to drive, but I do think you’re on to something that perhaps they have never felt the joy of independence.

  13. Dana Ellis August 21, 2013 at 9:43 am #

    I disagree. Neither of my older kids (15 and 21) are interested in driving, but they travel everywhere by themselves–know how to and do it! (and I mean everywhere–both of the flew to Asia alone as teens, and many domestic flights as well!). We live on a bus route, and it’s much LESS limiting than owning a car and not having enough gas money!

  14. tattooedelf August 21, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    My 15 year old son has his permit. He gets his restricted license next week. He’s a nervous driver still. He wants to drive, so he’s determined to get better. He’ll get there. My car, however, may not survive the experience.

    He’s the only one in his group of friends to even get behind the wheel, let alone get the required documentation. I was the last of my friends to drive (I turned 16 about midway thru my junior year), and I remember the wait to get my permit/license was “the worst”. My boy’s friends don’t seem to have the same angst about it.

    I don’t think helicoptering is entirely to blame here. There’s not a lot of incentive to get the permit at age 15 anymore. The independence is very attractive, but…

    The insurance premiums for a teenage male driver can be staggering – to say nothing of the costs of keeping an additional vehicle. Also, the high schools around here have eliminated driver’s ed as an elective. If a teenager takes driving instruction, he/she has to go thru a private company. – more time, more expense, more hassle. Last, the laws (at least in my state) have changed regarding teen drivers and their passengers – here’s where you might argue helicoptering comes into play. Teens can’t have more than one non-sibling minor in the car until they have their unrestricted license, usually obtained at age 16 1/2 or 17, and the penalties are pretty steep.

    “Dude, let’s just watch Doctor Who on Netflix. Can your mom drop you off?”

  15. Heather August 21, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    I would say that the price of insurance, the price of cars, gas prices, and the lack of jobs for teens plays a big part. I know it did for my brother and now for my oldest who desperately wants the added independence (she is already very independent) but isn’t sure she can afford the cost of insurance even with our help.

  16. JaneW August 21, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    Why are fewer 16-year-olds driving? Keep in mind, over the last couple decades, a lot of states have added more restrictions on young drivers or raised the driving age entirely. Inside NYC, you can’t drive under 18, period. In the rest of New York State, you have to be 17.

    Now, why the 18-24 year olds aren’t driving is more complicated. Could be more of them are in college and live on or near campus. Could be economic. Could be all kinds of things.

  17. Doug D August 21, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    I cannot equate driver’s license with independence. Driving comes with so much overhead that it can only be described as enslavement. By the time most families work to pay for the car, gas, insurance and storage for their car, they have spent 30% of their family income. For a teenager, this works out to more than a part time job.
    My children get around the city by bike, transit and walking and it is faster, more enjoyable, and several orders of magnitude cheaper than driving. They do not have to wait to be 16 to get their bike or bus license and so they are more free than those who chose to depend on cars.
    We have a family car, and we use it for long trips, but there is nothing independent about sitting stuck in traffic. My kids will protest vehemently if I suggest “car-ing” rather than biking somewhere.
    I am very much in favour of autonomy for kids, I just don’t think this is a free-range issue.

  18. Alicia W August 21, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    I think part of the reason for this also is the “graduated” license procedures now – When I took drivers ed, I passed the course, passed the state test & picked my license up on my 16th birthday. It was great! Now, My kid has to go through Phase 1 drivers ed, drive a required amount of hours, then Phase 2 drivers ed, drive MORE hours, then to a restricted license at 16. That is a LOT of trouble for him and for me! I did old school drivers ed and have yet to get a ticket or have a major accident (Having another car rear end my car in snow doesn’t count) – My son will be getting his drivers license….when we can fit it in!

  19. Eileen August 21, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    We live in the suburbs and I don’t know a single teen (we’ve already had 2) that didn’t want their license asap. We delayed our 2nd child’s permit (and therefore license) due to his own management of other responsibilities.

    It’s an expensive undertaking. I think it pretty much doubled our insurance.

    Everyone’s experience is going to be different but mine is that kids are OVER confident (not scared) and most of them end up with a fender bender and/or traffic ticket in that first year or so. Which of course makes things MORE expensive.

  20. L.A. Say August 21, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    I feel like this has some truth to it but many teens today may not have the confidence needed to drive. They may not feel like they can control the or take the responsibility a car comes with as well.

  21. Renee Anne August 21, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    I have a feeling that part of the problem lies within whether kids that age are actually “ready” to drive. They’re forced to sit in the back seat until they’re anywhere from 10-14 (depending on the state), all in the name of safety. Then, you put them in the front seat just a few years (or months) before they’re supposed to start driving.

    Also, there are so many other factors involved with driving: gas prices, automatic insurance hikes with a new driver, finding a car, the ability to get to the DMV during their open hours in order to even get the license in the first place (yay cutbacks!)…

  22. Tiffany August 21, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    Hi, I heard an interesting story on NPR about how teens are soliciting car rides from total strangers, like an e-version of hitchhiking. The story indicated that teens don’t want to be torn from their electronic gadgets. Driving, of course, would tear them away from those type things. So,instead, they are using Twitter to ask for rides to school and elsewhere. Here’s the link to the story: http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/08/15/209530590/teens-use-twitter-to-thumb-rides

    I found it fascinating, yet insane! I have a 17 year old, and just this week, we decided he needed the required driving course for teens here in our state. So, he’s driving and will keep driving.

  23. CrazyCatLady August 21, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    I heard a report by a teen on NPR when this came out. Her take on it was that it is expensive, and it is cheaper to find rides (helping to pay for gas) with friends. Apparently a number of teens use social media to find out who may be going to the party, mall, other destination and then arrange to be picked up to go to the place.

    It did NOT sound like teens are sitting around home with mom and dad on Friday night because they don’t have a car. They find other ways, and even if they don’t know the driver, they feel somewhat safe in that other people can see the posts to know who they went with. To me, it sounds kind of risky, akin to thumbing a ride, but the teens feel it is safer to ride with the friend of a friend.

  24. dan August 21, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Well I didn’t get my license until about a year and half after I was eligible. But it was for one very simple reason: I didn’t have a car. I also lived in a city and had friends that could drive, and I didn’t really mind riding the bus and stuff. Nothing to do with fear of driving or helicoptering or anything like that.

    My folks’ deal was that if I wanted a car I had to have a job to pay for it. And I was fine with that. I got a weekend/after school minimum wage job and eventually bought the cheapest, crappiest car I find. My dad paid for half though coz he’s cool. Then I had a reason to get a license.

  25. Martha August 21, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    Actually, I don’t believe this is a “free-range” issue at all. Along with all the economic reasons mentioned above, middle-class 16-and 17-yr-olds don’t have the TIME to commit to do a drivers ed course/get a license. They’re too busy doing all the exhausting stuff that goes with applying to colleges, which happens at the same moment in their lives. Meanwhile they make do with public trans, where it’s available, and designated friends. I also wonder if this is a class issue. I suspect kids who need jobs asap, or kids in rural areas, drive as early as they can. And of course, kids in cities with good public trans don’t have to bother. In senior year I had the choice of taking drivers ed or being in a play. I wisely chose the play. and learned to drive when I needed to – at age 25, in California.

  26. KLY August 21, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    Just a note: a lot of people seem to be making assumptions about public transport. That’s not actually an option in a lot of areas. My own town has had the “distinction” of being the largest city in the US without public transportation, for a long while, now. They recently announced some pilot program to try one out, but it is also being run by DART, which is great if you are willing to add up to 4 hours to your day just to go 20 miles. Similarly, biking and walking are not a big thing around here, partially because most of the neighborhoods make it really difficult. Half don’t even have sidewalks, and the roads are not what you’d call bike-friendly. With things being spread out like they are, and the temps in summer often hitting 115 anywhere near concrete or asphalt… cars become fairly necessary.
    And I know my area isn’t the only one with some of these issues.

    I also wanted to mention that the increasing amounts of restrictions and red tape that young people face in order to drive STILL make this a Free Range issue. It isn’t just about helicopter parents, but also about the Nanny State that is regulating/legislating the infantilization of our kids.

  27. Gpo August 21, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    With all the hoops the 16 year olds have to jump through to get a DL and all the restrictions they have what is the point of getting one. I remember I took the written test to get my permit. I took the driving test on then I got it. I did take driver’s Ed but that was to lower my insurance. Then I could drive who I wanted when I wanted. My parents did not have to log so many hours of me behind the wheel.

    I told my daughter it just May be easier for her to wait until 18.

  28. Lyanne August 21, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Both my kids wanted to drive the minute they were legally able to, but many of their friends do not have licenses because their parents “won’t let them yet”. I know these parents and asked about it. In one case it was to save money, one other because the 22 year old adult-child was afraid, but in all other cases the parents feel that their children “are not ready”.
    I just shake my head sometimes…..

  29. Are we there yet? August 21, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    This is interesting as I have two kids in that sweet spot. The oldest thinks driving is boring (sadly, he’s right), but I think it might be due to the lack of purpose or interest in going somewhere by himself in control of a car. To the comments below, cost has never been a factor, we’ve never discussed insurance or the other costs. And we live with good public transport.

  30. Havva August 21, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    I think a graph of the fall off in having a license at 16 vs. 24 would provide a good start at sorting out what is economics and what is helicoptering. What is kids and what is parents.

    As for the NPR article. That is one of those articles I file under, adults freaking out because teens are doing what they have always done, but using (scary) new tech. There have always been teens calling friends of friends to get to a party… now they send a tweet to other party guests, bfd. There also has long been hitch hikers, okay now they have a better chance to vet the person picking them up, and leave a bit of a trail when doing so.

    I didn’t get a permit until I was nearly 17. My mom simply wouldn’t sign the papers. She was absolutely terrified of letting me drive. Even when I had a license, and it was a total inconvenience to get me to class the next town over, and mom had things she needed to do at home, she didn’t want me taking the car by myself. So even if it is a result of helicoptering, it may not be the teens that are the bottleneck.

  31. IndianaJane August 21, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    All four of my kids have delayed getting their licenses for a combination of practical and financial reasons. None of them were able to fit the very expensive driver’s ed classes around their work and/or other activities. There are lots of hoops to jump through to get a license when you are under 18 and also restrictions on driving, especially since they hadn’t taken driver’s ed. Insurance is expensive. Gas is crazy expensive if you are working a minimum wage job. Our government destroyed a good portion of the cheap used car inventory, so used cars are more expensive than they used to be. So they have all taken the city bus, walked places, gotten rides with friends or older siblings, or asked me for a ride if none of the other possibilities worked. My youngest just got his permit and will be 18 by the time he gets his license.

  32. Kevin August 21, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    It’s expensive. Where I live, if you’re under 18, you must go to driving school before you can get your license. Now, back in 1986 when I got my license, my parents had to pay $75 for me to take the class.

    For my kid to take Driver’s Ed classes, it’s $800. That’s the cheapest I could find.

  33. WendyW August 21, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    I won’t try to argue that lack of free-ranging might be a reason, but I don’t believe it is in my son’s case. He’s 19, and has been told from the time he was 13 or so that in order to get his license he will have to pay the insurance himself. He never even bothered to look for a job until he was 18, then only applied because my husband knew the manager of the place. He’s perfectly content letting everyone else do things for him. We’ve tried to tighten the screws and make his lack of license a pain in HIS behind, but so far he’s not responding.

    In contrast, my just-turned-14yo is chomping at the bit to get his license and a job. Both boys have been the most free-ranging kids in the neighborhood in their circle of friends.

    If lack of free-range is a factor in this trend, it may be less due to the parents, and more due to child-labor laws that make it difficult for young people to find gainful employment. As far as I know there is only ONE place within biking distance that might hire my 14yo. An economy where the parents cannot afford to double (yes, DOUBLE) their insurance payment so their kid can drive doesn’t help either.

  34. Julie August 21, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    I agree that A LOT of it has to do with steeper licensing restrictions. In CA, high school kids who’ve had their license less than year may not drive their friends. (You, apparently, may drive a sibling to school but not a friend ANYWHERE.) You also have a driving curfew so if you’re going to be out late, you can’t drive anyway.

    I live in the suburbs of a big city and I work with the high school youth group at church. A few of kids are champing at the bit to get their licences at 16, but a lot of them aren’t because they can’t go with their friends anyway, so what difference does it make? Everyone’s mom is dropping them off anyway. Way less embarrassing than when you’re the only one who’s mom is driving you.

  35. Puzzled August 21, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    I think the problem has more to do with insurance and graduated licenses than anything else. Not that that is unrelated to free range – graduated licenses just are the nanny state helicoptering other people’s kids. But it’s a hassle, and there’s an element of risk – get caught after curfew and you have to wait until 21 to drive. Combine that with not having a job, and with homework now being a full-time job, and there’s little incentive to not just wait. Also, insurance basically assumes that teenagers are all slamming their cars into poles for fun.

    But I disagree with those who say it’s not a free range issue. All of these things are free range issues. We should be fighting graduated licenses as an example of not letting parents parent the way they wish. We should be fighting the insurance companies for their bureacratic policies. This is all insane.

  36. Sara I. August 21, 2013 at 11:26 am #

    While I am all about free-range issues, on this point, I strongly disagree. I am 33, but I have 5 cousins under the age of 19, and all of them plus their friends don’t make enough money to pay for *gas*, even if they had their own car. None of them are afraid to drive — you are invincible at that age! I think the reason young people aren’t getting licenses has to do with the cost of driving, owning, and maintaining a vehicle. If your parents won’t pay for your car use, and you can’t find a job, what is the point in getting a license?

  37. Charlotte August 21, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    I heard about this on NPR. One of the young women interviewed was 19 and said her mom didn’t mind driving her places and picking her up. I don’t mind driving my kids and I do it when it’s needed but it is so much nicer now that my 16yo drives. And there are times where if she didn’t drive, she wouldn’t be able to go because her father and I have other commitments

  38. Cas August 21, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    I’m thinking it has more to do with the financial aspect of training and insuring a young driver than anything. Back when I was 16 (1985), we took the class for FREE during school hours. Now classes are taken through private companies and cost several hundred dollars. I for one am dreading the cost when my boys finally are old enough in 8-10 years.

  39. Kimberly August 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

    I’m guessing that many parents are too overprotective and discourage it. I’m counting the days until my kid can drive, and she is only 10 (almost 11.) She’s counting them too.

  40. Colleen August 21, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    I grew up free range in a small town near a large city. Because I could and did walk to work, I didn’t bother getting my license until 18.
    Now I live in the city, and with good public transport and the high price of gas and insurance, I don’t know if there will be a rush for my kids to get their licenses as soon as their 16th birthdays come around. They will be perfectly capable of using the bus alone as soon as they are old enough. And by old enough, I mean at the very least able to read :)

  41. Alaina August 21, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    I got my license at 19 precisely because I had to, then; I didn’t want to be driven around anymore, and I had a free-range childhood. My mother wanted us to get one so she could drive us on errands.

    Before you can get your license in NH, you have to be 18 OR have taken, and passed, driver’s ed. I believe we’re the only state where driver’s ed isn’t required… and it costs over $500. Then, you have to spend at least 20 hours driving with an adult. Ever tried convincing someone over 25 to get in the car and do nothing for 20 hours while you go places? I have several friends, aged 20-27, who still don’t have a license because they can’t get anyone to drive with them, and the number of ‘driving hours’ is steeper in other states.

    I can’t afford my own car yet; I have to use my parents. When I borrow it, I have to return it with the tank over half full, or I’ll be lectured and lose access to computer/TV. Work is a 5 minute drive, or 20 minute bike ride, or an hour’s walk. So if my jobless sister leaves the car on empty after her weekly appointments an hour away, I have to spend $30 to get it to half-tank. That’s 3-4 hours of work in gas every week. Insurance is worse.

    These are all common problems we have to consider when we drive. Is it any wonder everyone’s bumming rides?

  42. Suzanne August 21, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    If I didn’t have kids, I don’t think I’d have a car, and maybe even a license. It’s such a pain to have to park downtown. I’d probably save a lot of money just taking a taxi whenever I needed to be somewhere fast.

    Maybe we’re just getting used to the idea of not driving.

  43. Jennifer R August 21, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    I am in my 40s, and while I did get my driver’s license in high school, and drove myself to school my senior year (I was going to a magnet school), after that in college I didn’t get a licence in the new state I moved to until I got a job driving for a living in my mid-20s. And I didn’t own a car until I was 31, mostly due to economics and the fact that I lived in the city. I can see why a lot of teens don’t want to drive when they are having to compete with people in their 20s, 30s and 40s for the typical teen jobs (fast food, babysitting). It’s at least partially the economy.

  44. Carol August 21, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    My son and his girlfriend don’t drive. They cannot afford it, plus they have lived in cities/towns where they can either walk, ride their bikes, or take public transportation.

    So I agree with some of the comments here that it isn’t about the parents or how the children were raised, it’s (the lack of) cold hard cash.

  45. Bill K August 21, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    I have to agree with the people who say it’s not necessarily a free-range thing. I went to university in Toronto back in the late 70s, and had a ton of very independent-minded friends from T.O. and
    Montreal who had no license. They had grown up in a rich urban environment with good transit (and now bike infrastructure) and didn’t need a car.

    Rather than echo all of the above, I’ll add two other points in favor of staying carless:

    1. The documented millennial generation’s preference for urban living and the demise of the American suburb

    2. When you’re driving a car you’re off line (or at least you’d better be). I took a train to a conference in Portland last year, and it was crammed with 20-somethings jacked into their laptops and devices.

  46. Rob August 21, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    We live in a small town where the closest public transportation stop is 14 miles away, so that’s not an option for us.

    I have two kids who are in their 20’s and one who is now 14. The oldest one, who is now 24 put off getting her license as long as she could for a couple of reasons. One is that she is perfectly content letting other people do things for her, especially those things that cost money. The other is that right about the time she started learning to drive, a cousin who was about her age was killed in a car wreck and it scared her off of wanting to be in control of a vehicle until we finally put our foot down when she turned 20 and refused to drive her everywhere. She’s still super cautious and there’s places she won’t drive (like in a downtown area), but at least she’s driving.

    My 22 year old son wanted his license worse than he had ever wanted anything else in the whole world from about the time he turned 12. Unfortunately, he was not inclined to get a job, and was not able to pay for all of the expenses that came along with having a vehicle. So he didn’t quite get that together until he was 18.

    My 14 year old is convinced he will be granted a license and a car (specifically a 350Z) upon his 16th birthday and unlimited freedom will be his! Reality will be harsh for him. LOL I have no problem with him getting his license IF he’s actually ready, but he hasn’t come to the realization yet that he’s going to have to still go to school and get good grades in addition to having a job to support the expense of driving.

  47. Antsy August 21, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    We have three teenagers(19, 17, 16)and only one car available to drive – which is MINE! That is the reason only our 19 year old bothered to get a license. Too much competition for this one car already! (Our oldest has a job but is paying for college expenses, so can’t afford to buy himself a car yet.)However, my oldest two are often picked up by their friends in their friends’ cars – so they are still able to get away from home.

  48. Ben August 21, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    My niece and nephew, now 25 and 23 were raised exactly the same. My niece didn’t get her driver’s license until she graduated college and my nephew got his at 17. However, not having a license didn’t inhibit her freedom – she went everywhere with friends who had cars/licenses and didn’t rely on her parents. After college, got her license and picked up and moved on her own from the east coast to California, found a job, bought a car, etc…. I think this is not a free range issue.

  49. Mike in Virginia August 21, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    And many states keep raising the driving age, or placing more barriers or restrictions to getting licenses. I understand the gut reaction to teen driving statistics, but the other side to this is that one major reason that teens get in more accidents is their lack of driving experience. That’s not the only factor, I understand, but wouldn’t you rather they get their learning experience when they are younger and still have parental guidance, and don’t have to drive as much, than wait until they are over 18, have no guidance and have to drive to work in traffic everyday?

    I know many people who didn’t get driver’s licenses until they graduated college. They are not very good drivers and will admit as much.

  50. Sophie August 21, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    Where I live in California, the schools no longer offer any driver’s education classes. Parents need to pay for their kids to take the course and behind the wheel training. It’s expensive and not as convenient as back in the day when it was included in the high school curriculum. I also think kids not being as motivated to get their license is a factor.

  51. Donna August 21, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    I think the issue can be summed up quite simply – parents today have no interest in their kids getting their license so will cart them around at will and kids today have no qualms at all with their parents doing things for them that they could do perfectly well themselves.

    The key to realizing that this is a helicopter issue, as far as the kids go anyway, and not purely financial is that studies are showing, not only are teens not getting their licenses, but they have no interest in doing so. Kids are not saying “I’d like my license but we can’t afford it” or “I’ll get my license when I can afford a car.” They are expressing a total lack of interest in having a license at all. And considering decent public transportation is still non-existent in the vast majority of the US, I don’t think it is that they are getting around perfectly fine without a license.

    For parents, I think part of the lack of interest in encouraging driving is financial, but that is a very small part. Insurance for teens has always been through the roof. Cars have always been expensive to buy and maintain. (And what is with the assumption that a teen has to have their own car to want a license? Most of my classmates didn’t get their own cars at 16 but still got driver’s licenses to drive mom or dad’s occasionally). There has always been, and will always be, a portion of the population who simply can’t afford it but the economy has not tanked that bad to account for the large change.

    I think the bulk is control. We hear, and mock, every day the attitude that Snowflake can’t be let out of sight because she may do something like eat an unapproved cookie. Can’t control the cookies if Snowflake has a car.

    I spent an hour or so yesterday at the playground after school with some of the other 2nd grade moms and dads – my first experience since being back in the states. After watching them yell at their toddlers for touching mud, stop any activity that looked slightly dangerous and jumping to solve any problem that arose, there is little doubt in my mind that my child will be the only one encouraged to drive a car at 16.

  52. Donna August 21, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    “Ever tried convincing someone over 25 to get in the car and do nothing for 20 hours while you go places?”

    That was a requirement when I was a kid too. It was very easy to convince my parents – who actually wanted me to learn to drive – to ride around with me. Heck, they put in FAR FAR FAR more hours than 20 with my behind the wheel between 15 and 16. That is kinda the point of getting your license younger – your parents are available for this and you are not hitting up your adult friends to teach you to drive.

  53. David August 21, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    Please check out this link to a video of how indoctrinated our kids are getting from a very early age. A Preschool that functions like a prison.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=bPjY3177k14#t=36

  54. Nicole August 21, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    I know my nephew didn’t want one, even when my mom (his grandma) offered him a car – but that was because he rides his bike everywhere and at least in CA you can’t actually drive no the highway or drive other teenagers, so it’s a little pointless at least until you are 18. Why drive if you can’t take your friends? Then he’ll be off to college, so I suspect at 22 he’ll want one.

  55. SKL August 21, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    I don’t know why this would be. I think all my close relatives have gotten one as soon as they could, more or less. In 1983 I was a 16yo HS senior in the driver’s ed class. There was nobody in my world under age 50 who did not desire a drivers’ license.

  56. Kathee August 21, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    My kids couldn’t wait to get their license, my daughter cried because the DMV was closed on her birthday (my kids are mostly homeschooled, part-time public school for High School) But 90+% of their public school friends didn’t have their licenses until they were 18 or older. We live in an area that is economically challenged, I know that is part of it but most of them said they didn’t want their license. They were perfectly happy being toted around by a parent or even my kids. I see that it has more to do with so many of the kids being lazy and feeling entitled.

  57. KB August 21, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    A few issues that seem to be strongly related to this (what I consider) sad issue.

    1. States intervene to make Draconian “zero tolerance” rules about driving relative to age, rather than either making people more responsible for their actions or suggesting that parents should be more involved in using judgment about readiness for activities (anything from being alone in the car to driving to babysitting, etc.).

    2. Insurance premiums, insurance companies trying to manage all risk, liability in injury (and health insurers actively suing for any and what all – maintaining a crop of litigation lawyers). E.g. – when I slipped and broke my arm at my brother’s house – my health insurance company “interviewed” me with questions geared to suggesting he was liable for my incompetence (was is slippery outside? what should the homeowner have done to prevent your injury?).

    3. Parents: Many parents that I know don’t feel that their little muffin will be ready to drive at sixteen – so, it should be a law. This law takes the onus away from the parent so that they don’t have to be the mean folks that use judgment.

    4. and most of this is wrapped into “worst first thinking”.

    We have three children, all with divergent interests. We live in a rural area where our children can only get to anywhere using a vehicle (our roads are narrow and windy – not bicycle safe!). I work full-time and am constantly making up work at night due to carpool duties. I can’t wait until they can drive! And, they are fairly responsible – so, I am sure that they will be competent – if they are legally allowed to do so.

    Are rookie drivers less competent? Yes – whether they are rookies at 16 or 20.

    Are younger children’s brains wired differently? Probably – but, the research is not clear on which factor drives this – are they immature because they aren’t forced to develop those pathways or vice versa? Anecdotally, by comparing children from different geographical regions and time periods – I would suggest that these pathways develop when they are exercised.

  58. walkamungus August 21, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    Wow, thirty years ago my parents couldn’t wait for me to get my license so that I could run errands, go grocery shopping, drive my sister and myself to swim practice in the winter (we biked in the summer), and fill up the car when it needed gas!

  59. Sky August 21, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    Other reasons besides helicoptering:
    (1) Schools don’t offer driver’s ed as a routine part of school education anymore. Parents have to get private driver’s ed for their kids now, after school hours, at a cost. It used to be automatic, and every student was enrolled at 15 in high school. Not having that in school makes it more inconvenient to get a license, and some parents may wait until the kid is older to invest the time and money.
    (2) Kids don’t have after school jobs for the most part anymore. Nowhere to drive to on a regular basis.
    (3) Bus service to public schools has been expanded, so that unless you live within one mile of the school, you can probably get a bus. Less need for cars to drive to school.

  60. Donna August 21, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    I’m not sure I buy that — I live in a very urban, car not-required city (Vancouver, BC.) A great deal of my friends in my age group (30+) have no drivers license because they never needed one. I do have a license, as I grew up in the suburbs, but my husband does not. In his case, he never had the opportunity. He left home while still having a learners permit and moved to a different province where he didn’t have an adult over 25 to supervise. Or a car to drive.

    We don’t own a car. Don’t need one. I work for our local transit system, so we have free bus passes. We do have a few carsharing memberships for those rare occasions when a car is handy. Road trips, taking the dog somewhere further than a walk away.

    I don’t see this as a free range issue. Sure, for some people, maybe. But for a lot of us, it’s a matter of being environmentally (and fiscally!) responsible. I honestly don’t understand people who insist on driving everywhere. Heck, when my parents come to visit me, they usually want to drive from my place the 5-6 blocks to a restaurant. Really? Why wouldn’t you just walk? Car dependence makes people lazy, in my experience.

    My household transportation costs every month are under $50. Who can say the same? :)

  61. Tracy August 21, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    My kids are totally free range, have been before the term came about. My teens don’t have licenses because they don’t need them. We live in a very bus, bike, walk- friendly city. I have encouraged them both to get licenses and they don’t.
    In addition it’s more expensive for kids to drive now. Gas is not 50 cents a gallon like it was when I was a teenager.
    Also, drivers ed is not offered in public schools. Kids need costly private driving schools to get their initial behind the wheel training. On top of that, insurance is quite high for teen drivers. Even with a good grades discount and discounts for completing a driving school, ours would increase $100/month. That would eat up a big chunk of my teenagers’ paychecks from their part time jobs.
    A decrease in teen driving has many more factors than kids not having independence. and parents who are at theor beck and call. I rarely drive my kids anywhere. They get to their own orthodontist appointments, ride the city bus or walk to school, etc.

  62. Mel August 21, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    Expense may be part of the equation. Insurance costs for teenage drivers is very high and it is possible that many families just can’t afford the added cost with the economy being what it is right now.

  63. Jen (P.) August 21, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    Some states have increased the eligibility age for driver’s licenses. I live in Indiana, and IIRC back in the 80’s you could get a license a month after your 16th birthday if you’d taken an approved drivers ed course and when you were 16 1/2 if you hadn’t. Now it’s 16 1/2 if you’ve taken driver’s ed and 16 years, 9 months, if you haven’t. That alone would reduce the number of 16 year olds with licenses. You also have to have logged 50 hours of supervised driving (10 at night) and take some online courses. That’s a challenge for some busy kids and families.

    Also, licenses are now “probationary” until your 18th birthday. For the first 6 months kids can only drive with immediate family members unless a licensed adult (over age 25 if not a relative) is in the front seat with them. In other words, they can’t drive their friends around, which of course was the primary reason we wanted our licenses. Probationary license holders also can’t drive between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. except under certain narrow circumstances (school events, etc.) Bottom line–getting your license isn’t as big a deal with all these restrictions.

  64. KB August 21, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    I would love to see a map that delineates the regions where it is feasible to live by relying on public transit. Even given the population centers where this is the case – I would be shocked if the proportions had notably increased in recent years. There is just so, so much of the United States where this is not a practical solution. In our mid-sized city – bus transit is feasible for younger single people.

    While some folks make a go at living near and using public transit with children – that is only done as a financial necessity and is fraught with problems (awkward hours of availability, long routes with very sporadic ability to switch buses, fairly narrow bands of bus coverage in the region, not pedestrian friendly zones near stops, no weather protection at stops, and so on).

    I can scarcely imagine the day-to-day – let alone if a small child needed an unplanned doctor visit. We do have taxis, but they are call as you need and terribly expensive.

  65. J.T. Wenting August 21, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    It’s getting ever more useless to have a car, and ever more expensive, especially in the increasing number of communities where the rulers have signed up with the AGW maffia to take peoples’ freedom of travel and choice away on the altar of “saving the planet”.
    Miniscule if any parking spots, laws restricting companies from having employee parking, $5-10 an hour parking fees in public car parks, mandatory parking permits to park your car on your own property that carry a 5-10 year waiting list and cost hundreds to thousands a year.
    And then there’s the cost of gas, insurance, and vehicle taxes that make that car you can’t take anywhere, can’t park there when you get there, and can’t park at home either very expensive to own and operate indeed.

    It’s not just youngsters that are learning to do without cars, it’s older people as well.

  66. Meg August 21, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

    Well, now, are we really thinking it’s an issue if more teenagers are delaying getting driver’s licenses?

    While the risk of a child being harmed walking to school is demonstrably small, the risks to teenage drivers are quite large and real.
    A dear friend just lost his 18 year old son in a car accident.

    When I was a senior a girl was killed the week before graduation, and the class above us lost four.

    I don’t honestly care why-it’s just fine with me.

  67. Katie August 21, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    I’m an urbanite who grew up in the suburbs. I never cared much about getting my license because my goal was to move to a city and I know there are ever increasing number of teens who feel the same way. A lot of teens know that they don’t want to stay in the suburbs and when your goal is to move to an urban area driving isn’t such an important skill. In fact, despite having a license I already ever drive anywhere. I know lots of people even parents who don’t even have driver licenses and who have never driven in their life.

    So not a bad thing, it’s just how the world is changing in that young people have a vision and an awesome one of lots of public transportation and lots of walkable spaces. When you have these it’s actually much easier to set kids free at an earlier age and for them to be able to get places on their own.

  68. Jana August 21, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    I live in a state where you have to be 17 to get a license. In a month and a half, I will be 16. I get a permit them and I really, really can’t wait to get a license. I travel around the state a lot and it’s much more convenient than always having to bum a ride from my parents or friends. Public transit is great but inconvient in a lot of suburban areas.

  69. Papilio August 21, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    If this encourages car-dependent America to become less car-dependent (decent public transit, roads not only meant for cars but also safe for other means of transport), I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing…

    I always thought 16 was very young to drive a car, but could understand its necessity if there is no other way to get around. But knowing America’s roads are among the unsafest in the first world and statistics show young drivers just are more often involved in accidents, I also understand all the hoops the gov’t makes them jump through in an attempt to keep more of them alive. That just doesn’t sound unreasonable to me.
    Funny to read all those prices: the insurance rates seem through the roof and the rest is really cheap!

  70. Crystal August 21, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    My husband is an Air Force recruiter. His number one complaint? Today’s recruits are almost totally incapable of making a decision on their own. Most bring their parents into the office (nothing wrong with that), but then the parents ASK ALL THE QUESTIONS AND DO ALL THE TALKING! As a result, most of them end up dropping out before they even ship out. I’d bet good money that the same ones my husband complains about don’t have driver’s licenses…

  71. JJ August 21, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    Without access to the meat of the article, we can’t really speculate on causation. Regardless, from the perspective of many U. S. families we might as well be debating about why few kids get their yachting licenses nowadays. Not only is the cost of insurance coverage, gas, etc. out of reach for most teenagers, if your parents don’t have a car you are S-O-L. In the 80’s we had Driver’s Ed at school so you actually could learn to drive whether or not your parents had a car, and free of charge at that. We shouldn’t confuse “helicopter” with “poor” or with “urban and public-transportation reliant” either for that matter.

    Less teenagers driving means less adults driving in the future and to me, that is a wonderful thing. The benefits to reduction in car-culture are many.

  72. Wenonah August 21, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    Is this a terrible thing? Teen drivers are dangerous. The facts are clear. From the CDC: “In 2010, about 2,700 teens in the United States aged 16–19 were killed and almost 282,000 were treated and released from emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes.1

    Young people ages 15-24 represent only 14% of the U.S. population. However, they account for 30% ($19 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males and 28% ($7 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among females.”

  73. JJ August 21, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    PS, are there two Donnas? Confusing! :)

  74. Donna August 21, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    I think some are missing the point. Teens driving has never been even the majority. There have ALWAYS been a large number of people who didn’t learn to drive as teens due to cost or lack of a car to learn or living in good public transport areas or lack of interest or whatever. The question is why is there almost 20% more people who fall in that group today and the answers being given here don’t answer that. Teen driving has always been extremely expensive. Public transportation has not made significant growth into places it didn’t exist in recent decades. Bikes have not made a substantial improvement to make them more desirable. In fact, most of the people here saying “my teen doesn’t drive for X reason” probably would have said that in 1983 too because the exact same reasons existed then. Those kids were always going to be in the 54% or so of teens who don’t drive. So what didn’t exist in 1983 that does exist now to make this HUGE change? The license restrictions may play a part but the argument of “I can’t drive whenever I want so why bother to drive at all” seems a bit odd. I can’t think of a single person I knew in 1986 (when I got my license) who got a license then but would have said “I’d love to drive but, eh I can only drive during daylight hours so why bother” had they been born later. We wanted to drive when we could regardless of hours limited (at that time by parents and not laws). Other than a lack of interest on the parts of both parents and children for children to be independent, I don’t see any other substantial change that would account for an almost 20% decrease in teen driving since 1983. Things that would account for smaller decreases? Sure. But not that large of a decrease.

  75. Donna August 21, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

    And,yes, there appears to be 2 Donna’s today.

  76. Jeff August 21, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    I remember reading an odd statistic somewhere that drivers ed corraba actually correlated to ahigher Iincidence of accidents. Cant remember what the explanation for this was but it obviously isn’t a causal link.

  77. amy August 21, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    In South Dakota, you can drive at 14. (Picture it: heads barely clearing the steering wheel.) Where I live, public transportation is almost nonexistent, so most kids get their licenses asap. Drivers’ ed classes fill up quickly, however, and are costly, so many take the alternative of driving with an adult for a longer period.

  78. Taradlion August 21, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

    See, I saw this and wondered if there was a correlation between fewer kids getting a license at 16 and the number of teens with a job. According to Slate.com (google search on my phone), “employment among people ages 16 to 19 has plummeted to the lowest level since the government started keeping tabs after World War II. “…. So maybe kids don’t want/need a license because they don’t have a job? On the other hand, part of the reason I had a job, was because I REALLY wanted to have a car and drive (which meant paying for gas and contributing to insurance)….

    No free Drivers Ed

    Parents being afraid to let the kids drive/ be independent

    No time for a job because of extracurriculars (and parents actively “participating” in those activities/sports etc as a chaperone all along…

    All factors I think

  79. Alanna August 21, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    I agree with Sky that the fact that driver’s education is no longer offered in school is a factor when it comes to kids getting driver’s licenses at sixteen. When I was in school in the 60’s, the classroom part of it was required. You took it even if you didn’t plan on getting a driver’s license. From there it was a natural progression to on road driving classes. To my knowledge there was no additional cost to my parents for these lessons.

    Twenty years later I found myself teaching in a high school, and to my surprise, driving classes were not offered. I found out that some kids’ parents required the kid to pay for the lessons. In other words, the kid has to get a job first, save the money, and then pay for the lessons. I recently paid for lessons for my sixteen year old, $600.00, a considerable expense, I think.

  80. Rachel August 21, 2013 at 10:36 pm #

    I saw some discussion of this in an Urban Planning magazine a couple years ago, discussing a small study where surveys of bus riders showed that young people were taking public transportation because they liked the ability to use their gadgets to watch movies, social networking, doing work, etc.–stuff you can’t (at least your not supposed to) do if you are driving a car.

    There is also a trend with young people preferring to live in cities as apposed to suburbs. So, yes, young people would be shifting to more public transit and seeing less benefit in driving.

    So, arguably, this might be less of a free-range issue than a demographic shift to cities (which I like), an end to the car-loving era (also like), and a (somewhat worrisome) attachment to screens.

  81. Brenna August 21, 2013 at 11:21 pm #

    I don’t think this is a black and white free-range/helicopter issue. My parents never requires me to have my own car before getting a license, but they did require that I be able to pay for my part of the insurance.

    I didn’t drive until I was 18. We lived in the middle of 98% of the places I wanted to go, so I walked or rode my bike everywhere. Then at 16, my first job was being an administrative assistant for an insurance agent. I got to see firsthand the financial and physical consequences of driving around poor drivers or being a poor driver yourself. Even just a fender bender you aren’t responsible for can hack your insurance prices up. No, I didn’t want to drive.

    I didn’t need to drive until I moved out to a more out-of-the-way apartment. Even now, 7 years later, I dread driving and only do so because I have to. It isn’t an independence thing, it’s a knowledge of the dangers of just being on the road – which have only increased with the inventions of smartphones.

  82. Stafir August 22, 2013 at 12:52 am #

    While some of this could be a free range issue..this can also be an issue of need.

    I have a housemate now. He’s…32 (almost 33) and does not have a drivers license..I and our other housemate drive him where he needs to go. Should I mention he owns the house we live in? And i drive him to work.

    It prob sounds extreemly odd to many people..and it sounds odd to me. But here’s the thing, he moved recently. Where he used to live, he could pay a quarter, a single quarter. And go anywhere he wanted to in the city he lived in. A quarter won’t even get me a mile in the car I own. But he could go all over the city.

    Why should he ever learn to drive, when it was both easier and cheaper to just use a city bus system? Now with how we work, the cost of gas, and everything. It’s hard for him to get a license..he has a permit..but we never have time to let him learn how to drive. He hasn’t gotten used to any of the vehicles any of us uses, and for right now I drive the van that the company he works for lets us use. So he isn’t ready for a drivers test..or to even drive on a public road, he still needs to get used to using a car by itself. And we don’t have time to teach him that kind of stuff right now..and the extra gas cost for that teaching would be a pain as well.

    While some of this is probably kids being too sheltered. i could also see it not really being feasible for multiple reasons for a kid to learn how to drive. They might not even need to, if their neighborhood has everything close enough together. heck check Japan and how free range it is..with the articles that have appeared here before. You don’t have a lot of people driving there either.

    Honestly I think a good part of this is a changing need when it comes to transportation.

  83. Sandy Grant August 22, 2013 at 1:01 am #

    Here is UT Drivers Ed is weird. They expect the student to have there permit and plenty of experience behind the wheel before they even start their formal course work (which is required). Then (in addition to the teacher informing them that their parents taught them all wrong)they sit through MANY hours of horror videos about how dangerous driving is and how easy it is to kill people driving 65 miles an hour. — then they are ready to take their test. Needless to say I know a lot of teens who loose interest in getting their “License to Kill” by the time they have jumped through all those hoops.

  84. baby-paramedic August 22, 2013 at 1:14 am #

    So I asked a friend why he didn’t have a license, despite having a car. As dot points.

    – Public transport is readily available in the city
    – In the country, the towns he has lived in are so small they can easily be walked
    – Finding someone to supervise you for 120hours is hard
    – His most likely supervising driver (his other half)is a rural paramedic. Think 8days straight shift. Hardly conducive to practice. On days off they head back to the city, and learning to drive whilst ocmpeting with roadtrains and wideloads is not fun
    – Laziness. He hasn’t needed a license, so is not inclined to work for one

    He moved out of home when he was 16 (we get our licenses at 17), so he didn’t get the opportunity to get his hours up with his parents. He can drive a car well enough, he just doesn’t have those pesky hours. (His siblings all have their licenses).

  85. Cynthia812 August 22, 2013 at 8:30 am #

    Looking through the comments, I think the biggest factor is all the hoops now. When I turned 14 in 1995, I studied the little booklet, walked in, took a written test, and walked out with a permit. A year later, I took the road test, still had another year of driving with an adult, and was home free. I never even had driver’s ed. When my sister was a teenager 9 years later, she was the driver for all of her friends. I remember thinking it was weird that none of them even wanted to get their licenses.

  86. Chris August 22, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    Another factor may be all the restrictions and regulations on new drivers. These were not in place when my son turned 17, the driving age in NJ in ’01.

  87. Warren August 22, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    With gas, insurance, driver’s ed and such it is just too damn expensive for a 16 yr old to drive these days.

    That and they would have to choose between driving and texting.

  88. Really Bad Mum August 22, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    I was thinking about this and in Australia the majority of kids get their licence ASAP. They do a written test for their learners permit at 16 then these 6 steps http://www.transport.wa.gov.au/licensing/20653.asp
    It made me think of how awhile back there was a lot of talk about “inexperienced” drivers and rules to make it safer, and u thought why not allow them to start supervised driving eg going to shops with parents, etc at 13/14 then when they are 17 and get their licence they have 3/4 years experience and therefore are safer. My 14 and 9 yr olds both know how to drive manual cars ( learnt on bush roads and at friends farms) and we always discuss the road rule when we are driving places..

  89. Jessi August 22, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    This is still loading extremely slowly.. it often times out. This is my 3rd attempt to comment.

    In my state, there’s no getting your license and driving. I drove my brother, my friends, ect.

    But now, in my state, you can’t have friends in the car until you’re 18. You can’t drive between midnight and 5am. You can’t use a handsfree device. The list of can’t’s is huge. So if Mom has to drive you to work because you have late shift, drive you and your friends to the movies if they need a ride, and drive you to your dance or play because you won’t be off the road before midnight, why bother getting a license that doesn’t afford any freedom?

  90. Alicia August 22, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    As a Michigan mother of twins who are 15 years old I can name a few reasons that my kids won’t have their licenses at 16.

    # 1- When I was younger divers training was a service offered for free by our public schools. Now it costs about $200 per child.

    # 2- When they finish their training they will need to complete a certain number of hours of practice driving under our supervision. This might take awhile as they will have to compete for opportunities.

    #3 We can not afford another vehicle and are busy enough that we would likely have to drive them to activities just so we can have the car available for other trips rather than sitting in a parking lot.

    #4- Having more drivers in the family will mean more money needed for gas, insurance, and repairs.

    #5- Once the kids have finished their practice time. There will be other hurdles to jump before they can drive friends around or drive at any hour.

    # 6- By the time they can have full driving privileges they will likely age 18 and off to college, and many colleges do not allow freshmen to keep cars on campus.

    Now add to that the facts the kids can use public transportation and should not think themselves to be so wonderful that they can not walk or ride the bus, and the fact that they are in constant contact with friends via iPhones etc. and you can see this isn’t necessarily a protection issue.

  91. Emily August 22, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    My guess is that a lot of parents aren’t letting their kids get their licenses at age 16. Even 15 years ago when I was 16, my parents decided that I “wasn’t responsible enough” to drive alone, so I wasn’t allowed to get it. I imagine that has only gotten more common.

  92. lisa mary August 22, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

    i wish my almost 17 year old had his license! driver’s ed is no longer offered thru the school, and it’s over $400 for the class here in WI.

    i took it thru school as soon as i turned 15, it was free and got an elective credit for it and i had been working for over a year, had enough saved for a junker and an income that covered the gas.

    but yeah, i do think it’s more economics than helicopter parenting

  93. Portland Dad August 22, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

    Our 22 y/o son just got his permit, but isn’t interested to drive for many of the same reasons – easy to ride his bike, take public transportation, ride with friends, $$: anywhere he wants to go is within 5 miles or less.

    Cars are less important socially than in my day also.

  94. Carolyn Porter August 23, 2013 at 8:44 am #

    In Florida, the car insurance costs would eat up most of a teen’s paycheck. The parents need to have free income to get the kids off a bike.

  95. Ellen August 23, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    My daughter is 15 and she has the schedule for getting her permit and license figured out to the MINUTE. When I was growing up in NJ we couldn’t get our license until we were 17. That seems like a better age to me, but I am looking forward to her being able to drive herself and her brother around. Although we are not going to stop carpooling entirely – that’s where I find out what’s going on!

  96. sylvia_rachel August 23, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    I dunno — I’m 39 and have never learned to drive, and my SO is 44 and didn’t learn until he was 18 (because he had to pay for his own insurance, and at 16 he couldn’t afford that). My brother (he’s 35) didn’t get his licence till he was 20. I know quite a few people around my age who have never learned to drive or learned only recently. So I’m not sure this is a brand-new helicoptering-related phenomenon. Also, graduated licensing is now a thing, but some places will exempt you from that once you reach a certain age…

    My story is that I took my learners’ permit test once, got one too many questions wrong and failed it, never bothered to go back and do it again, and then moved to Toronto, where car insurance costs both arms and both legs (especially if you’re under 25) and public transportation is so much better than where I grew up that I just have never urgently needed to drive. I have been lectured on numerous occasions (especially by my mother) about my “handicap,” and it was often explained to me that once I had kids, I would have to give up this silly idea that one can live without a car. I am happy to report that not only do we still not have a car (FTR, my husband does belong to a car share), but my kid is now 11 and out there taking public transportation all by herself as well as with us. (Well, right this second she’s at camp in Muskoka somewhere. But you know what I mean.)

    Presumably there are also lots of people in NYC who don’t drive?

    I don’t know about the US, but here in Canada, there are more and more people in large cities and fewer and fewer in rural areas, and the more you live in a city, the less attractive driving seems as a primary means of transport: insurance and parking costs are horrendous, traffic is horrible, you can’t find a parking space for love nor money, gas is expensive. So I wonder whether some of the decrease is just from kids saying “Forget that — I can get a transit pass for $50 a month!”

  97. Aimee August 23, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    Had a conversation with DS about this just this week. COST is the biggest factor (of driver’s ed, more gas, more insurance, a 3rd car, etc etc). My high-school boyfriend had his license at 15 1/2 and he could have teen passengers the same day (that would be me ;-). Now in this state you have to drive on a full license for an entire YEAR before you can have even one non-immediate-family passenger. What a total bummer.

  98. Emily August 23, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

    I’m from Ontario, where there’s graduated licensing. I got my G1 (learner’s permit) at 16 like everyone else, but didn’t get my G2 (middle stage; unrestricted except for driving between midnight and 5 a.m. and on major highways), until I was 23, or my G (final, unrestricted stage) until I was 25. That wasn’t because of helicopter parents, though (although my parents were helicopterish in other ways). No, it was because I have a spatial disability, as well as problems with anxiety, which makes tasks like driving much more difficult. I had my Bachelor’s degree before my driver’s license, and I actually found that easier, because I always knew I could finish university, but for a huge chunk of my life, I believed that I’d never be able to drive.

  99. Lucy Kemnitzer August 23, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

    So my kids were really quite free range, wandering off to do what they wanted at a relatively early age since I had a lot of confidence in them and in our small city. But they didn’gt getg their drivers licenses till 18 or 19. It was simple economics. The cost of insurance for a 16 year old is very high compared to the cost of insurance for an 18 year old. And they didn’t get their own cars until well into their twenties when they needed them to commute (they had unlimited access to the family cars, depending on who needed what). Times are harder now, so I would guess that more families are doing what we did.

  100. Susan August 25, 2013 at 1:13 am #

    I agree with all the comments about economics, no drivers Ed offered in school anymore, all of the hoops kids have to jump through to get a license, etc. In my own 16 (almost 17) year old daughters case, she is just too afraid and anxious to drive. As much as we have encouraged her get her license, even offering her a car when she does, she is just too terrified when she gets behind the wheel to practice. Not wanting to force an anxious driver onto the road, we don’t push it and just hope that as she matures her fears will subside. It’s not a free range issue, she goes out with her friends and 20yr old boyfriend all the time, it’s an anxiety about being in control of a vehicle.

  101. Jennifer September 2, 2013 at 1:06 am #

    I can think of a lot of factors here.

    Graduated licenses – you no longer get total freedom to drive wherever and whenever you want, with as many people as you can stuff in a car, at age 16. This makes getting a license less appealing. Lessons are sometimes required, which are expensive and take time.

    Cost – Insurance is expensive, and insuring young drivers is very expensive (legitimately so, as they are a big risk to insure. IF they have an accident, the rates go through the roof, and that increase will last well after they leave home. Cars are expensive, gas is expensive.

    So if your kid gets a license, your insurance doubles, but you still have to drive them places if they are going at night, or on the highway, or with a group of kids.

    Then there’s increasing urbanization, particularly among young adults – owning a car in the city is not necessarily an advantage, given traffic, parking, increased insurance costs, parking, traffic and the availability of alternatives.

    Then, once you’re out on your own and your parents have no say in the matter, all of the above things are still there, only you don’t have the money to pay for it, and you won’t for a long time.

    Personally, I figure a bit of nervousness when it comes to learning to drive is a good thing, – certainly compared to the “Woo Hoo! Car! Roadtrip!” attitudes that prevailed when I was that age. Unlike a lot of the over-reactions to normal life you see on this site (fear of kidnapping, banning tag, the evils of home-made cupcakes), motor vehicle accidents actually are one of the major causes of injury and death among young adults – this is why insurance is so insanely expensive for that age group. Waiting a few years until your brain development catches up with your body sounds like a generally sensible idea.