Driving and Teens

In Maine, teens can go to drivers education at age 15, and get their license at age 16. For a very long time, this has been a tradition, but year after year students are getting their license at a later age.

AAA did a study in 2018 and found that only 54% of teens have their license by age 18. They found that hat number is decreasing each year. Back in the ’70s, according to an article by “The Atlantic”, almost 70% of teens had their license by age 18. But what is the reason for this decline, and will teens get the motivation to drive again?

One thing is clear, it is harder to get a car these days. Thanks to technological advances, the cars of the last few decades are better made and last longer, thus cost more, even when they’re used. This is one possible reason for teens not wanting to drive, but is it the only reason? I believe with parents more willing to “cart” their children around or “play taxi driver” teens haven’t felt the need to get a license.

It could also be the lack of time. It takes many hours of drivers education, followed by 70 hours of driving on your permit with your parents to obtain a license. Time is a very tangible asset, and finding the incentive can be tough.

I decided to do a statistical analysis of my high school myself, sampling 100 students, to see if I could prove the claim by AAA that only 54% of teens have their license by age 18. I found that 58% of teens in my school have their license by age 18, and the most common reason is lack of time. Students said they spend too much time trying to juggle 1000 things and don’t have the time to invest in getting a license. They would rather build their portfolio for college by participating in every club, sport, fundraiser, and charity program, so they can go to their dream school.

Don’t get me wrong, you have to do the best you can to get into college, but is this a good reason for the crazy decline in this American tradition? I’m not sure myself, but I’m sure adults involved in the teen driving community do.

Jim Trask, Thornton Academy’s director of campus safety, is in charge of monitoring our parking lots, administering parking permits, and several of things related to security on campus. He has noticed over the years that students are getting their license at a later age. Jim states, “The kids just don’t have the time anymore. Over the past few years the amount of student getting permits has declined drastically. A few years ago, I would be out of permits a month into school, now I have 60 leftover and it’s the end of the school year.” This is just one example of the decline of teens getting their license, but what are more reasons?

Thornton Academy resource officer Matt Roberts is in charge of campus safety throughout the day, and is a 2008 Thornton graduate. Officer Roberts states, “When I got my license it was $300 to go to driver education, now it’s almost $600. This is a large investment for students, and sometimes not their top priority.” So both limited time and finances seem to be playing a role in the decile of teen drivers.

“The other thing is students get rides,” Officer Roberts states. ”Their parents are more willing to drive them, or they get a ride from their friends. Students don’t even take the bus anymore.” Many teens feel no pressure to get a license. They can just get a ride from a parent or friend, and not have to worry about the burden of getting their license.

Finally, Mr. Hamilton, owner of Bruce Hamilton’s driving school, has also seen a slight decline in students getting their license as well. “teenagers seem to be extremely busy these days. The hardest part of my job is getting students scheduled. It seems to get harder and harder to get them scheduled because they have so many commitments going at once, even before they sign up for driver education,” states Bruce. “Price could be another factor. $400-$600 is a large sum of money for many families. Especially if a family has two kids they are putting through at the same time.” This is just another example of both limited time and finances playing a role in the decile of teen drivers.

“Getting your drivers license is a monumental step into becoming an adult.” Benjamin Bartlett TA’19

In conclusion, the state of Maine and the country are seeing a decline in teens getting their license. From a average of 70% of teens getting their license in the 1990’s, to just 54% in 2019, there is a drastic change. The cause is most likely the decline in students time, interest, and finances, or the effect of all of them together. One thing is for sure, fewer teens are getting their license.

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Educating students for more than 200 years.