For generations, driver’s licenses have been tickets to freedom for America’s 16-year-olds, prompting many to line up at motor vehicle offices the day they were eligible to apply.
No longer. In the last decade, the proportion of 16-year-olds nationwide who hold driver’s licenses has dropped from nearly half to less than one-third, according to statistics from the Federal Highway Administration.
Reasons vary, including tighter state laws governing when teenagers can drive, higher insurance costs and a shift from school-run driver education to expensive private driving academies.
To that mix, experts also add parents who are willing to chauffeur their children to activities, and pastimes like surfing the Web that keep them indoors and glued to computers.
Jaclyn Frederick, 17, of suburban Detroit, is a year past the age when she could get a Michigan license. She said she planned to apply for one eventually, but sees no rush.
“Oh, I guess I just haven’t done it yet, you know?” said Jaclyn, a senior at Ferndale High School, in Ferndale, Mich.
“I get rides and stuff, so I’m not worried about it. I’ll get around to it, maybe this summer sometime.”