Fewer Teens Are Driving Because They’re Broke

In 2012, 73% of graduating high school seniors nationwide had driver’s licenses according to the Centers for Disease Control. That’s down from 86% in 1996. What’s the reason for the drop? Better public transportation? Helicopter parenting? Stricter testing requirements? No, not that. A new study from the insurance industry-funded Highway Loss Data Institute indicates that it’s because teens don’t have jobs.

Researchers came up with these numbers by comparing teens’ unemployment and driving stats to those of middle-aged adults. Fewer teens who want to work have jobs, and fewer teens have driver’s licenses. Why bother going through the process if you can’t afford to drive and have no job to drive to anyway?

It makes sense: even people whose parents are wonderful enough to buy cars for them need some source of income to put gas in that car. Teen unemployment up by 11 percentage points during the Great Recession period compared to other recent eras.

Or maybe it’s even less complicated than that. The drop in teen drivers also correlates with more widespread Internet usage and mobile phone ownership. Maybe teens who can Facebook with their friends from home have less interest in having aimless face time with them at the mall.

Teenagers Are Driving Less, But Why? [Wall Street Journal]
Percentage of teen drivers continues to drop [University of Michigan]
Teens delay licenses and drive less often; N.J. teens back restrictions for older novices [IIHS]