Teens choosing not to drive at 16

Confession: I’ve been letting my daughter drive in parking lots. She’s only 14. In a few months, she’ll be getting her permit. I want her to have tons of practice before she gets her real license. And, even with tons of practice, I’m terrified for her to be on the streets of South Florida.

I’m haunted by the scene at one of the worst funerals I have attended. It was for the sister of my close friend. Her 15-year-old daughter was practicing driving with her mom, misjudged a left turn and crashed the car. Her mother was killed. At the funeral, the daughter wept and wept and mumbled how she would never drive again.

This morning, the Sun Sentinel has an article about how fewer teens are racing to get their driver’s licenses when they turn 16. The statistics are pretty shocking: Only 30 percent of 16-year-olds nationwide got their license in 2008, compared with 44 percent in 1988.

What’s going on out there? There are several ways to interpret this trend: You might look at it this way: teens lack motivation. They are being coddled by their parents who serve as chauffeurs to our children.  (Mom can drive me, why should I bother to drive myself?)

Experts have a different explanation. They say today’s teen are scared to drive. Teens have the highest fatal crash rate of any age group. A good number of teens out there already have had friends in car accidents. Cell phones have made driving even more risky.

There’s another factor, too. Tens don’t need to go places as often because they can text or talk to friends on Facebook.

And of course, the economy may play in to the trend. Teens have less access to cars at home and fewer dollars to spend on gas, which is quelling their thirst for a license. Even more, annual insurance premiums aren’t cheap — about $2,200 according to Carinsurance.com.

Often, teens themselves feel they aren’t mature enough. When I was in high school, Driver’s Education was a required course. Today, it isn’t offered in most schools. Your kid has to go to a private driving school. Many of them are pushing that off for later.

Part of me looks forward to the day my daughter can help with the driving. My life will get easier when some of the driving is taken off my plate. But part of me is celebrating today’s news. Frankly, I don’t think a 16-year old boy is mature enough to drive. I’m thankful that teens are waiting longer to get their licenses, when they are more mature.

What about you, parents? Do you think this is a good trend or a sign of kids who lack motivation?

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