A new study by AAA says that fewer teens are jumping at the opportunity to pass that coveted driver's license test -- only 54 percent of teens are licensed before their 18th birthday. Once a highly anticipated rite of passage, driver's licenses are being placed on the back burner.
Gail Weinholzer, spokeswoman for AAA, says Minnesota laws are partially responsible for these statistics.
-No driving between midnight and 5 a.m. during the first six months of licensure.
-Only one passenger under 20 is allowed during the first six months of licensure.
-No more than three passengers under the age of 20 are allowed unless accompanied by a parent or guardian during the second six months.
-It is illegal for drivers under 18 to use a cell phone or hands-free technology in the car unless if it is an emergency
WHY TEENS WAIT
AAA reports that less than half -- 44 percent -- of teen drivers obtain a license within 12 months of the minimum licensing age in their state. According to AAA, this raises a concern among safety experts who believe young drivers are missing the benefits intended by graduated drivers licensing.
"With one in three teens waiting to get their license until they turn 18, there's a segment of this generation missing opportunities to learn under the safeguards that GDL provides," said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "For most, it's about not having a car or having alternatives for getting around that are the top reasons cited for delaying what has traditionally been considered to be a rite of passage."
In comparison, two decades ago, over two-thirds of teens were licensed by the time they turned 18.
However, the study suggests that teens are not waiting to drive based on the limitations posed by their individual state, but rather, many didn't have access to a car, could get around without driving, didn't want to pay for gas, or they "just didn't get around to it."
44% – Did not have a car
39% – Could get around without driving
36% – Gas was too expensive
36% – Driving was too expensive
35% – "Just didn't get around to it"