Fewer Teens are Getting a Driver's License, but is That a Good Thing?

It used to be that earning a driver’s license was the most anticipated rite of adolescence. In the age of ride-sharing and interaction through social media, there has been a significant decrease in the number of teenage drivers. One survey places the share of high school seniors who have a driver’s license at a record low of 71.5 percent – down from 85.3 percent in 1996.

More and more teens are opting out of getting a driver’s license, resulting in fewer new drivers taking advantage of Florida’s graduated licensing system. Less experience and practice is a potential safety problem on today’s already dangerous roads.

Statistics certainly don’t paint a flattering picture of teen drivers. For example:

  • The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than in any other age group.
  • Per mile driven, drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers older than 20 to be in a fatal crash.
  • 75 percent of serious teen driver crashes are because of "critical errors" and nearly half of those are due to a lack of scanning for hazards, going too fast for road conditions, or being distracted.

Here in Florida, there were 42,874 teen driver crashes in 2015 – a 10.5 percent increase over 2014. Looking at averages over those two years, Miami-Dade had more crashes by drivers aged 15 to 19 than any other county – 5,316. Broward was second with 3,349. In 2015, over 21,300 citations were issued to Florida drivers aged 15 to 19 for careless driving, and a whopping 61,793 citations were issued to such drivers for unlawful speed.

So, fewer teens behind the wheel is a good thing, right? Not necessarily. One concerning trend is that teens are delaying getting a license until they are old enough to avoid Florida’s three-tiered graduated licensing system. At the first stage, a Learner’s License can be obtained by a person who is at least 15 years old, has completed a Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Course (driver’s ed), has a signed parental consent form, and has passed both a written test and a vision test. To receive an Intermediate License, the driver must be at least 16 years old, have held a Learner's License for at least 12 months without any traffic convictions, have parent certification that the driver has had at least 50 hours of experience behind the wheel (10 at night), and have passed a driving test. The final stage is a Full License. Young drivers who already hold an Intermediate License are no longer restricted. Any other first-time driver age 18 or older is required to take the driver’s education course as well as pass the written and skills tests.

By opting to wait until at least age 18 to get a driver’s license, many drivers are missing out on years of honing their skills. There is simply no substitute for experience – or for benefitting from the experience of seasoned drivers such as parents or older siblings. In fact, the Governors Highway Safety Association has even recommended that graduated licensing requirements be extended to age 21, and that driver education and training be mandated for all new drivers regardless of age.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, you need an experienced attorney to effectively represent your interests. At Stabinski Law, we have successfully represented victims throughout Florida who have been seriously hurt by negligent drivers. We have also assisted families who have lost loved ones in traffic accidents. For over 45 years, we have been helping injured motorists, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists put their lives back on track, and we are ready to help you. For advice on how to proceed next, or if you have any questions about this topic, call 305-643-3100 or fill out a free case evaluation form.

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