February 26, 2008

"I get rides and stuff, so I’m not worried about it. I’ll get around to it, maybe this summer sometime."

These days less than a third of 16-year-olds get their drivers licenses as soon as they can. Surprising. Is it that it's too much trouble? Are kids these days less interested in independence? Does driving no longer symbolize independence the way it did back in the golden age of driving? (Was there a golden age of driving?)

Many more theories about the decline listed at the link — fearfulness among parents and their kids, lack of driver education classes in school, the expenses of driving...

Not listed (though the article is in the NYT): Kids are concerned about the environment! Why can't it be considered a good thing?

39 comments:

Tim said...

"(Was there a golden age of driving?)"

Oh, hell yes there was - 18 years old, '68 Mustang, 289 V8 - THAT was the golden age of driving.

I'm not thinking mom's minivan or emasculated dad's Prius is quite the same thing these days.

George said...

Average national price of gas in May 2003:

@ $1.30

Today:

@ $3.00

Hoosier Daddy said...

I'm not seeing a downside here. The less ditzy teens preening in the mirror and texting their friends while doing 70mph the better.

Mister DA said...

In my teenaged days (same as your's, Ann), in suburbia, cars were the primary means of getting some privacy to, well, explore the boundries of interpersonal relationships between the sexes, so to speak. Not so much a consideration these days. Couple this with the price of gas and insurance and I'm not surprised the demand has dropped

Tim Morris said...

Multi-level drivers' licensing surely plays a part. It's something of a pain compared to the old drivers' ed system.

Meade said...

Twenty-one is the new sixteen.

ricpic said...

Hoosier Daddy stole my fire. I'd be willing to bet the ranch that the percent of accidents caused by the 16 - 18 cohort is at least twice as high as their percent of drivers.

Meade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MadisonMan said...

I'd rather my kids got an early permit, so they can drive while I'm in the car giving helpful (Ha!) instructions. If the kid doesn't get a license 'til 18, then when/how do they learn to drive? Part of learning to drive is learning to drive in all different conditions and times. Parents who actively lobby their kids not to drive are abrogating their responsibility to produce fully functional adults.

SteveR said...

I have teenaged girls , one who got her driver's license the first day she could and another who's getting close and has not engaged. One, they are very busy and used to being driven around. Taking time for some outside driver's ed class when they already are doing something all day everyday doesn't take priority.

Its not as easy as it used to be either.

But bottom line is when I was that age, a drivers license was and alternative to walking, riding a bike or public transporatation, to the extent your parents were willing to drive you somewhere, you didn't want to be seen being dropped off by your parents. Nowdays we haul our kids all over (in large part because its a safety issue) so its not as big a deal.

titusokkkkkkkkkkkk said...

I got my drivers license the day I turned 16 and was out that night at the gay bars in Milwaukee.

It was one of the most exciting days of my life.

I was free and ready to flee.

Roman said...

A driver's license was needed so I could work in the family business-auto repair. Then I could chase after parts, drive a tow truck(small one: 1947 Studebaker)and earn money to fix my first car. My dad paid $25.00 for a wrecked 54 Ford convertible. Gas was about 32 cents a gallon...rarely had a full tank.

Nataraj Hauser said...

Prius = emasculated?
289 V8 = what? big penis?

hahahahaha!

Balfegor said...

If the kid doesn't get a license 'til 18, then when/how do they learn to drive?

When they're 18, at driving school. I did. Although I don't drive nowadays and don't have a car, so perhaps I'm not the best example.

The Drill SGT said...

Nowdays we haul our kids all over (in large part because its a safety issue) so its not as big a deal.

That has got to cramp some young guy's sex life :)

Jennifer said...

I didn't get my license until I was 19 and my husband's (then boyfriend's) Dad made me because I was working for him one summer. I didn't see any point in going through the hassle of taking the test. I had no car, I had no possibility of a car, I worked but preferred to spend my money on clothes and shoes.

I got rides. I knew how to drive and did drive sometimes. I walked. It wasn't a big deal.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"Prius = emasculated?
289 V8 = what? big penis?"

Pretty much. My first car to learn to drive in was a 65 Olds Cutlass 442. I wouldn't be caught dead in a Prius, ugly piece of crap. My husband says when you make a hybrid that can pull a John Deere backhoe up a 6% grade, then we'll talk about it.

It probably depends on where you live for the necessity of getting a driver's licenses immediately. There is no public transportation at all in my area. Zip zero nada.

Teens (and everyone else) need to have cars or 4x4 trucks to be precise in this area to be able to attend after school activities, games and get to jobs. 4x4 is not just a macho statement. You need it to get out of your driveway at times when it snows.

If you live in a city and have parents with the time and willing to act as a private taxi service then you can get by without a car for a while.

The price of gas and insurance does put a crimp in teens owning cars today compared to when I was younger. Unless the parents are going to subiside the kids forever (bad idea) this is probably another reason to delay car ownership and driving. The kids are making economic decisions on where to spend their money. Car vs Ipod.

Richard Fagin said...

The trend (if it applies equally to boys and girls) may have consequences for the armed forces at some point. A 1970s vintage article in Technology Review compared typical Soviet army recruits to their American counterparts and concluded that the typical Soviet army vehicle driver was at a distinct disadvantage. Most American 18 year olds knew how to drive and the big training problem was keeping them from doing "wheelies" in tanks and armored personnel carriers, while the typical Soviet 18 year old had to learn how to get the feel of the road and learn how to use the controls.

It's probably because kids are just too interested in video games. Having said that, flying an F-22 is probably more like playing a video game than driving a tank is like driving a car.

Actually, the golden age of driving is NOW. Gas prices are just touching where they were in 1981 adjusted for inflation, but the cars are so, so, so much better. Back in the day, there were no 500 horsepower cars that ran 11s at the drag strip right from the showroom and got 25 air-conditioned mpg on the highway, while polluting about 1% of a 1960s vintage car and only needing a tuneup every 100,000 miles. No comparison.

Meade said...

"You can't learn to drive a car in six to eight hours," Mrs. Thompson said. "This is the first time 99.9 percent of these kids have spent four contiguous hours behind the wheel."
Elena Strickland, whose 16-year-old son, Blaine, took the course at Indian Hill High School, said parents should take more responsibility training their children to drive.
"Parents don't want to spend the time," the Kenwood woman said. "It's inconvenient. It interferes with what they want to do."


Self-centered boomer parents.

Balfegor said...

If you live in a city and have parents with the time and willing to act as a private taxi service then you can get by without a car for a while.

Or you can learn to ride a bicycle. Or, if you're in a city with usable public transport (e.g. San Francisco or DC, both of which are fairly small cities with serviceable public transport networks, both light rail and bus), you can use public transport.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Nowdays we haul our kids all over (in large part because its a safety issue) so its not as big a deal.

That has got to cramp some young guy's sex life :)


Heck sarge, it doesn't do much good for the old guy's sex life either since either he or the old lady is doing all the hauling around.

chuck b. said...

My cousin is of driver's permit age, and he's not even remotely interested in getting it. (Freaky, definitely not normal for a kid in the California suburbs).

He also likes to play computer games, hang out on MySpace, and all that.

Is there a connection?

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

One comment I heard a few years ago that may have an application here was after the 2000 election, and Kelsey Grammer was on Politically Incorrect and commented that possibly the difference between the Red States and Blue States was that in the Red States folks were more able and ready to take care of themselves, whereas the Blue States were more dependant on Government for their basic needs, and it was these dependancies that accounted for voting differences.

I see a correlation here (especially with our MySpace fan); teenagers who have a need for transpotation: to visit with a friend will get a license; those who can visit via MySpace will not.

A child who has parental chauffuers at the age of 17 will not need a license; those who don't will learn to drive.

It's all about meeting needs.

I have three sons all of whom got their license before the age of 17, as soon as they could pay for a car and the insurance; I am not going to meet their needs for transportation- they need to do it on their own.

jeff said...

Learners at 14, restricted at 15 and full license at 16. Couldnt wait to get off of the bicycle. Gas ran around .65 cents a gallon, and my car got about 8 miles to the gallon. As I understand it now, a lot of schools no longer offer Drivers Ed due to insurance (trial lawyers) and the cost of putting your 16 year old on your insurance can double it. Don't know if this is true or not. If I was a parent, looking back on my learning days driving a car, I would be hesitate in letting them drive at that age.

Donna B. said...

Not only did my daughters have their DLs at 15, the oldest used hers to drive herself to flying lessons and soloed on her 16th birthday.

I think we're overprotecting, coddling our kids too much.

That said, I really missed driving them places as a 20 minute car drive was a 20 minute conversation.

amba said...

I dunno, back in Chicago in 1962 we sprouted wheels at puberty and hit the ground rolling.

amba said...

Hmmm, all this talk about online seductions is making me wonder if driving is just too physical for this Matrix generation.

Middle Class Guy said...

amba said...
I dunno, back in Chicago in 1962 we sprouted wheels at puberty and hit the ground rolling.

Remember Paul Powell, the Secretary of State?

Joe said...

I go with coddling argument, especially since parents in the article came right out and said it.

Another reason may be that a high percentage of teenagers who do drive have their own car and thus can give friends rides. (My 16-year-old "owns" a piece-o-junk I bought for his older sister since it was cheaper to insure them that way and my wife and I hated driving them around.)

LoafingOaf said...

I'd be curious to know if there's also a big increase in the number of teenagers being caught driving without a license.

Revenant said...

I didn't get my license right away. My mom pushed me to go get it so she could send me to the store for groceries.

A license doesn't grant much freedom when you still have to borrow the car. :)

Paul said...

We hitchhiked everywhere until we could drive. Cold, snow, rain, whatever. I remember times freezing my butt off waiting hours for a ride in the winter. Just keep walking and turn around every time a car approached with the thumb out praying that this one would stop. I hitchhiked from my home in the Hudson Valley to the Strawberry Fields rock festival in Ontario getting rides from an awol soldier in a stolen Opal Cadet, hanging onto the railing on the back of a flatbed farm truck, sitting on the rear deck of Triumph TR3 with my feet in the well behind the front seats and my head above the height of the windshield, and a rented Econoline van filled with stoned out hippies fishtailing down the Trans Canadian highway at 70 mph, amongst others.

So when I had a chance to get a license you know I lunged at it. I bought my first car, a '63 Plymouth Sport fury with a 318, pushbutton automatic, bucket seats, and plenty of rust for $100. I immediately loaded my girlfriend and her German Shepherd in it and drove to California. Really fast.

sydney said...

My oldest son has been sixteen for six months now and he's had trouble fitting the time in for driver's ed. When I was in high school, driver's ed was available from the public school, and that's where most people went. Driver's ed isn't offered in his public high school. It's harder for him to work in the driving lessons than it was for me because he has to do it in addition to his high school curriculum. I don't know if high schools around the country have dropped driver's ed like ours did, but that might be part of the reason for declining teenage drivers.

SGT Ted said...

The reason? Helicopter parents playing chouffuer for their overprotected adolescent children. When you quit giving them rides, they usually get motivated to drive themselves. Or they bum rides with their buddies.

Palladian said...

I never learned how to drive. And I grew up in a rural area. I walked, or had my friends cart me around. Or I stayed home and painted.

Now I live in New York.

lurker2209 said...

It's harder to get a license in many states. You have to get so many hours of practice with your permit. In Oregon, it's 50 if you take driver's ed and 100 if you don't. If you want to get all that in before you turn 16, the parents pretty much have to let the kid drive everywhere for a year.

And for the first 6 months, you can't have anyone under 18 that isn't a sibling in the car with you. What's the fun in that.

Christy said...

Have we created such a risk averse generation? Or is it all a part of what Instapundit was talking about a few months ago: we no longer pass skills along to the younger generation? If it doesn't enhance the college application we don't bother?

Christopher Drew said...

Yet another symptom of our culture's preoccupation with perpetual adolescense, IMHO. Meade is right - 21 is the 16. In the EU, I think it's closer to 30.

H Palmer said...

First off, the price of gas and buying a car are extraordinary and nowadays parents cannot afford to have a third car with insurance and the rising cost of gas. There are many adverse effects of driving because of the huge responsibility (although that is nothing new) and I have heard countless stories of DUI cases and accidents. Also, it has to do with the culture we now live in. A lot teenagers are not as active as they used to be- they are hooked on technology and video games and sadly, on non-social activities. They can be dropped off somewhere and be content for hours, not needing a car.