Ever since I turned 16, my friends and older sisters have been asking me if I’m going to get my driver’s license soon. Each time I reply “not yet,” pushing it to the back of my mind until someone asks me again.
Getting a driver’s license at 16 used to be seen as a rite of passage for teenagers, but things have changed. Teens are putting off getting their driver’s licenses until much later. Most of my friends do not have licenses either, even though they are old enough to get them. Some of them don’t even have their permits.
Nevertheless, I’m not worried.
Thirty years ago almost 50 percent of 16-year-olds and nearly 80 percent of 18-year-olds had their driver’s licenses, according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. In 2014, only 24 percent of 16-year-olds and fewer than 60 percent of 18-year-olds had their licenses.
In the past, teenagers often got their licenses as soon as possible, like my sisters, because their transportation options were limited. If they wanted to visit friends or go to a party, they had to ask their parents or friends to drive them; it was much easier to just drive themselves.
Now, there are Uber and Lyft, the on-demand driving services that can take you anywhere, anytime, and are much easier than driving your own car and practicing for the driving test. With an Uber car, you don’t have to waste time looking for a parking space or your money paying for parking. Around the Los Angeles area, cars usually arrive in less than five minutes, so there is no worry about being late for an appointment. This service didn’t exist 30 years ago, when 16 -year-olds either had to get their driver’s licenses or rely upon family or friends for rides. Also, you can text in an Uber car, which you can’t do while you’re driving yourself.
The idea of getting a license can also be overwhelming, and the process for getting a license is very time-consuming. First, there is the permit test, which requires more studying on top of my already test heavy schedule. Next, it requires hours and hours of training, time I don’t really have to spare. Getting a car filled with gas, serviced and maintained takes time and money. With all of the responsibilities we have as students, who wants to add the responsibility of dealing with a car?
In addition, parking on campus isn’t an option for sophomores, and the incentives for driving to and from school don’t seem any greater for juniors or seniors. The parking spots allotted for them are often inconveniently far from their classes.
Time spent in a car driven by someone else allows for multitasking. I can study for an upcoming quiz or test, or text my friends and make plans. I don’t have to feel stressed that I’m in the right lane, or on a windy road, so I arrive more relaxed.
So maybe I am spoiled by easy access to alternative means of transportation that make getting to and from school and other activities more enjoyable than driving myself. Maybe I am overloaded by other responsibilities and I just don’t need another one right now. Maybe I’m put off by all the stories I’ve heard of cars getting damaged in the school parking lots. I would like to learn to drive and get my license at some point. I just don’t plan to do it anytime soon.