(Illustration by Ben Mikail)
Brentwood School

Recent driving trends among teens

Teenagers are driving less, and it is not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even after qualifying for their Learners Permits or California Driver’s Licenses, teenagers along with the rest of Generation Z no longer have the same desire to drive compared to previous generations.

Several factors have contributed to the decreased urge to drive, the most recent being the COVID-19 pandemic.

This past year, most of California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has been overcrowded, and seemingly impossible to schedule an appointment. Lines of people can be seen spanning multiple city blocks, sometimes taking upwards of three hours to reach the door. To aggravate the situation further, the DMV fully suspended driving tests when cases exploded in December 2020. The process of going through the DMV is time-consuming and tedious, a process most teens would not have to worry about. 

According to the Federal Highway Administration, only 25.6% of 16-year-olds in the United States became licensed drivers in 2018, and only 61% of teenagers had their licenses by age 18.

These statistics are considerably lower than the driving rates among teens twenty years ago. According to Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Survey, 85.3% of high school seniors had driver’s licenses in 1996 compared to 71.5% in 2015. 

Cultural changes have also impacted the many reasons why a majority of teenagers are reluctant to drive. The emergence of ride-hailing, food delivery and package delivery companies have played a part. Uber, Lyft, Postmates and Amazon have decreased the need for transportation. 

With the speed at which technology is advancing, autonomous vehicles are just on the horizon. There may be a time in the future where learning to operate a vehicle may no longer be needed, as the entire process will be automated. Additionally, there is a tremendous responsibility for driving, and many simply do not want to deal with the risk of getting behind the wheel.

Our society is constantly evolving.

Over the course of the past decade, driving rates among teens have steadily decreased, a common trend shared by many teenagers.