By Riley Cable
From a young age, a specific image is painted in impressionable children’s minds by TV shows and movies: the window is down, music blasting, and there is only one person in the car, the teenager without a parent. For most kids, 16 is the year when freedom is finally in grasp, and it’s the start of a whole new chapter. However, in recent years, it has become clear that this perfect driving image is not as desired. Teenagers are no longer rushing to the DMV to test for their permit, and oftentimes, kids aren’t urging their parents to prepare them for their driving test.
The decline in teen driving became noticeably different in 2009 due to the recession. When the economy was increasingly bad, teen employment plummeted, and the United States Department of Labor showed teenage employment rates to be at 25%. Businesses needed less help during this time, so jobs were less available. Even though the economy has progressed since then, there is still a lower percentage of teen drivers on the road.
“A license provides independence, and who wouldn’t want that,” Vanessa Soltysek, junior, said. “I want to get my license for independence and convenience, so even if I don’t get a car at the end of the whole process, it’s still worth it to have.”
One of the most common reasons teens put off getting their license is because they don’t have a car, and it’s not an easy item to obtain. In a study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, it showed that 32% of young adults, ages 18-39, said “owning and maintaining a vehicle is too expensive.” Even when teenagers receive a car, keeping up on gas and maintenance is quite costly, and not everyone has the means to handle that.
“If it’s a small distance, I normally walk, but if it’s longer, I ask for rides from my friends,” Niki Almenario, junior, said. “Most of the time, it is easy to find other transportation.”
Even without a license, teenagers will find their way around. Whether it’s begging their mom or older friends, kids can make sure they get from point A to point B. If all else fails, walking is the easiest form of transportation and can be done easily. When looking at all the requirements in order to obtain a license, it can be easier to dismiss the idea since there are technically other options. Money that may go towards gas or paying for a new car can now be saved, and the burden of going to the DMV is no longer a top priority.
“Even with delivery apps, I wasn’t any less motivated to get my permit because I was actually excited to be able to drive,” Molly Russel, sophomore, said. “I was on top of getting my permit because I have been looking forward to driving ever since I could remember. Seeing my brother able to drive pushed me even more, and I couldn’t wait, so I got it the first day possible.”
Today’s generation also has immediate access to so much more than past generations. Between Amazon, Postmates and other similar delivery concepts, acquiring food and different objects can be done with a few simple clicks. Teenagers are used to the instant gratification of ‘two-day shipping,’ so going out and getting these things in person is not required. Also with current technology, there are many more distractions preventing teenagers from sitting down and committing time to studying.
Getting a license is a right of passage. Being able to drive from place to place is a newfound freedom that can’t be understood until in that position. Regardless if a car is in the future or not, possessing a license still opens the door to many opportunities. Stop putting it off, and at least start studying for the permit test.