In 1986, when I turned 16, I couldn’t get to the DMV fast enough to get my driver’s license. For those of us teens of the 80s, getting a driver’s license was a big deal. We could finally get out from under the thumb of our parents. We did not have to beg for a ride. Whether it was to meet up with friends at the mall or cruise the Micky Ds parking lot looking for trouble, the driver’s license gave us freedom.
Today’s teens just don’t seem to have that same desire. Data from a University of Michigan study show that nationwide high school seniors who have a driver’s license has dropped from 85.3% in 1996 to 71.5% today. And the Northeast has the lowest rate at 64.8%.
So why the change?
Well first off, today’s rules are a lot stricter than back then. I remember the first chance I had after getting my license was to cram as many of my friends as I could into the car and go out cruising. Most states now have rules that do not allow new drivers to take underage passengers in the car with them. (That’s no fun).
Another big reason is today’s teens all have access to the internet and smartphones. In the 80s, if we wanted to talk with our friends on the phone, we probably had to stretch a curly phone cord from the kitchen phone as far as it could reach into the next room. And then talk in code, so your dad sitting at the table around the corner did not hear you. Today’s teens have so many ways to communicate with each other that the need to drive and meet up is gone. Texting, Snapchat and other smartphone apps has connected our teens like never before.
Then there is the Uber Effect. This is where some of our teens have gotten really smart. They are realizing that the cost of buying a car and paying for Insurance and maintenance is a lot more expensive than just using the occasional ride sharing car, like Uber or Lyft.
So what is next. With autonomous vehicles right around the corner, are we about to see a whole generation of teens, never learn how to drive at all?
For those of you with teens who are not getting their licenses, you can at least be happy that you are saving tons of money on insurance premiums. And that might be the best SmartMoneyMove of all.
Van Pappas, CFP®
Private CFO, oXYGen Financial, Inc.
Request a FREE, no obligation consultation: www.oxygenfinancial.net