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Why Teens Delay Getting a License…and What It Tells Us

Over a year ago, I wrote about how more and more teenagers were in “no hurry” to get a driver’s license these days. This stands in stark contrast to teens when I was growing up. I could hardly wait to get mine. It was a sort of “rite of passage.” Getting my license meant one more step toward becoming a “man.” In fact, it was tied to:

  1. Autonomy – I could go out on my own without parents.
  2. Opportunity – I could now get “real” jobs and earn money.
  3. Responsibility – I could “own” getting to team practice or events.

In short, I had options. I didn’t have to wait on or rely on someone else to get where I wanted to go. When I got my first car, I remember an amazing transformation in my life as I grew from boyhood to manhood.

license

Today, reports continue to be released saying that teens are waiting at least a year, sometimes more, to get their license. In other words, although they qualify for this “right” they don’t take advantage of it.  Sometimes, there are very good reasons for waiting. But this trend leads to some questions we should be asking. When the American Automobile Association (AAA) surveyed over 1,000 eighteen to twenty year olds nationwide, and asked why they didn’t have a license, this was the reply:

  1. 44% said they had no car.
  2. 39% said they had other ways to get around.
  3. 36% said the cost of driving.
  4. 29% said they were just not interested.
  5. 21% said they were too busy.

Planning

When an eighteen year old says they don’t have a car, I can understand how that can de-incentive them from getting a driver’s license. Yet, when I got my license I didn’t have a car either. I just knew I was determined to get one, hopefully soon. Does this response from teens today indicate we’ve not taught them to “dig their well before they’re thirsty”? Have we not prepared them to think ahead and get ready as well as we should have? Are they consumed only with “today”?

Entitlement

When a 18-20 year olds say they have other ways to get around, might this mean we parents have become far too “available” to taxi our young adults around? While I admire today’s engaged population of parents, I wonder if we’re really helping teens by this kind of help? Do we de-incentivize them by being their chauffeur around the clock? Do they become ill-prepared for life when we foster a sense of entitlement, assuming someone else will help them get around at eighteen?

Dependence

Did you notice the last two responses above? A full 50% of 18-20 year olds are not interested enough to get a license because they’re busy with other things. I wish I knew what those other things were. There’s no doubt in my mind we live in a new day, but this pattern seems to indicate we’ve created a dependence on “mom and dad” that should be diminishing by eighteen years old.

These are my thoughts and questions. Let me hear from you.

What do you think about this trend? Is it encouraging or discouraging…or neither?

3 Comments

  1. Patrick Jackson on December 8, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    Did it ever occur to you that people like myself, who are exceptionally intelligent, independent, and hard working, have no use for driving because there are cheaper, quicker, more environmentally friendly, healthier, and more enjoyable ways of getting around. Me having ability to drive would not benefit me or anybody else in any way.

    • tncem on December 23, 2016 at 8:05 pm

      Really snowflake? Exceptional huh? Shouldn’t you have ended your question with a question mark instead of a period? I agree with your logic until the time you ask someone to take you somewhere. And that day will come if it already hasn’t.

      • Patrick Jackson on December 23, 2016 at 8:28 pm

        There is nowhere I go that requires a car to get to. I don’t know where you live, but I assure you much of American and the world as a whole gets around just fine car-free. Furthermore, Über is always an option. Finally, it’s impolite to address someone as snowflake.

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Why Teens Delay Getting a License…and What It Tells Us