Student driver rates plummet due to lack of necessity


Senior Emma Dzweirzynski drives a group of friends to school

Gigi Wade, News Reporter

What’s in your wallet? Not a driver’s license.

There has been a statistical decline in teenagers getting their driver’s’ licenses over the last generation.

“Drivers licenses are not as strong of a right of passage anymore,” Chad Harris, instructor of Drivers Education at ETHS said. “Kids used to have to drive somewhere for something that they needed. Now, you can simply walk to opportunities.”

According to a University of Michigan study, only 24.5 percent of 16-year-olds had a license in 2014, compared to 46.2 percent in 1983, a 21.7 percent decrease.

This drop could be attributed to many factors, including a lack of necessity. “Usually, I just have my mom drive me places,” junior Ensar Ozicanin said. “I definitely don’t need a license.”

While there has been a shift in parents’ willingness to drive their teens around as compared to generation ago, for others, it is the hectic schedule of the millennial student that is a deterrent to getting their license.

“I don’t have any time in my schedule to take Driver’s Ed, and I don’t need to,” junior Mia Ford said.

As schools place more emphasis on preparation for college and participation in extracurricular activities as a resume boost, it becomes harder to fit time into student’s schedules to take Driver’s Ed.

“Now, there are more practice requirements, so it takes longer to get a permit. There’s more work that teens have to do,” Harris added

The availabil ity of courses and their price has added another deterrent to students learning to drive.

ETHS has a driver’s education class offered as a semester long elective course that is comparatively cheaper than private classes, but placement in the class is determined by seniority, which means that 15 year olds who are looking to begin driving are hesitant to sign up.

“I haven’t taken it at school because I don’t have priority,” sophomore Alex Bolling said. “Outside of school, it’s super expensive.”

Cost is an issue across the board. Experts point to the higher cost of insurance, driver’s education classes, and maintaining cars as prohibitive measures of students getting their license.

In the past, the car has represented freedom for the American teen. Teens now are not experiencing this freedom through driving a car, but through something much smaller

For teenagers who can go anywhere on a handheld computer and connect with friends all over the globe in real time, driving a car to get away is less enticing.

“I think that if I lived in the past and there weren’t any cell phones, I’d probably need a car,” junior Isabelle Bavis said. “But I don’t need to drive around to talk to my friends if I can just text them.”

The drop in driver’s’ license is a cause of concern for the auto industry. With fewer teens driving, auto industry executives have commissioned studies to discover the origin. Some results have pointed to the availability of ride sharing programs such as Uber, or the indulgence of the “helicopter parent.”