Teen drivers
2:45 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

AAA study shows fewer teens getting licensed before 18

A national study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds most teenagers are putting off getting a driver's license, mainly for economic reasons.  Forty-four percent obtain a license within 12 months of the minimum age and 54 percent are licensed before their 18th birthday.  That's a significant drop from two decades ago when more than two-thirds of teens were licensed by the time they turned 18. 

Cause for concern?

Cheryl Parker,  Corporate Public Affairs Manager in Cincinnati, said safety experts are worried  young adult drivers are missing the benefits of  graduated drivers licensing and parental supervision.

"It's definitely a trend that's concerning for us," said Parker.  "We want to make sure that young drivers are getting the training that they need before they get behind the wheel."

AAA has long been an advocate for states to adopt and enforce a three-stage GDL (learner's permit, intermediate/probationary license, full/unrestricted license.)

Why the delay?

The study found few teens were waiting until 18 simply to avoid graduated drivers licensing requirements.  Parker said most of the reasons were economic.

  • 44 percent, did not have a car
  • 39 percent, could get around without driving
  • 36 percent , gas was too expensive
  • 36 percent, driving was too expensive
  • 35 percent, "just didn't get around to it."

"It's cost prohibitive for some teens and they're delaying it as long as they can," said Parker.

The survey also found that low-income and minority teens are least likely to get a license before age 18.   Only 25 percent of teens living in households with incomes less than $20,000 obtained a license before they turned 18.  Only 37 percent of non-Hispanic black teens and 29 percent of Hispanic teens had their licenses by age 18.  

Researchers surveyed a nationally-representative sample of 1,039 respondents ages 18 to 20.