Teens waiting longer for driver license

Today’s teens are no longer rushing to earn their driver’s license when they turn 16, or at least that’s the consensus of the latest research by the University of Michigan and U.S. Department of Education.

In 1980, 44 percent of 16-year-olds had their keys, compared to 28 percent in 2010. There was a large percentage gap in driver’s licenses between these decades for all age groups.

Officials say the decline could be attributed to greater access to friends through cell phones and social networking, possibly creating a lesser need for face-to-face interaction.

“For younger consumers, the smartphone may be the shiny new cars from previous generations,” said Thilo Koslowski, lead automotive analyst at the research firm Gartner.

The percentage drop could also be linked to the economic downturn, as many families today are unable to afford another vehicle.

“I’m not in a huge rush to get my permit,” eighth-grader Brian P. said. “I know I’ll rarely have a car to drive.”

Either way, most teens don’t seem to be in a hurry to get to the Division of Motor Vehicles.

“I don’t [have my permit],” freshman Angela Ahern said. “I only have to take the road rules test, and I’ve just been lazy to go get it.”

She noted that she does not feel pressure from her parents to drive.

“I just want more freedom,” she said.

But not all adolecents are holding out for the right to drive.

“I have my license,” junior Dakota Helbig said. “I want to be able to drive when my parents aren’t around.”

By Meaghan Pickles