Fewer teens are driven to get behind the wheel; think it through before pursuing your license

Driving in high school commonly signifies new freedom and independence, but is typically less recognized as a big investment. Although some may think it’s a “rite of passage,” driving as a teen is not for everyone.

I got my license on my first attempt after I turned 16.

Unlike many, I hate driving.

Of course, initially I was fascinated with the idea; some friends older than me said it was really fun. Turns out, at least for right now, I don’t share the same feelings. And I’m not alone.
The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) released in 2012 that 30 years prior, 8 in 10 Americans ages 17-19 had a driver’s license. By 2008, it had dropped to 6 in 10. A study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) shows the same trend: 54 percent of teens were found to have their licenses before they turned 18. 44 percent said one reason for not getting one was because they didn’t have a car. 39 percent said that they didn’t need driving to get around.

These explanations are only two of the many reasons why fewer teenagers are driving. I have my own.

First off, like the 39 percent in the AAA study, I don’t have a desperate need for it. I have the privilege to get driven to school by my dad, who drops me off on his way to work.
I don’t entirely depend on my parents to get where I need to be—I am a fan of the train—there are only a few situations where I absolutely have to drive myself.
Secondly, there are financial reasons. I don’t have my own car.

Gas on average cost $2.30 per gallon in California last week. Adding a teen driver to a couple’s car insurance policy leads to an 80 percent higher average annual premium. Even if I wanted to plead with my parents for my own car, I know it would put financial strain on them. I don’t have a job. Before starting Driver’s Ed, one should consider whether one is ready to make the investment.

Lastly, I have a lot of anxiety while driving.

Not paranoia.

Genuine fear. Many of my friends have asked me ‘why don’t you drive?’ after I approached them for a ride. I shrug, smile and come up with some weak justification because it’s difficult to face my fear of getting into an accident, much less share it with others. I’ve been in two car accidents as a passenger, one as a -month-old baby and another last year. Neither accident led to any major personal injuries, but the first one gave my mom chronic back pain, and the second wrecked my family friend’s car. Still, the one I was involved in last year was terrifying, and I know that I could never live with myself if I ran over a pedestrian or killed someone in an accident.

If you’re like me, I wouldn’t completely give up on driving as a teen. It is an acquired skill, and based on my current experience, it takes time to get more comfortable driving. However, if someone has a scarring experience as a passenger, it makes sense that they wouldn’t want to drive. Not every teen should get their license or feel like they absolutely have to, especially if there isn’t a desperate need.

Ultimately, the decision is up to the individual. If you need to drive and have access to it, take the opportunity. Just remember that with new freedom comes greater responsibility; make sure to consider the pros and cons of what it’s going to be like after you get your license before you sign up for the 30-hour-long Driver’s Ed course. Besides that, you’ll have to take the written permit test, pay for at least three 2-hour driving lessons and pass the actual driving test.

If, however, driving isn’t for you, then that’s okay.

Although I do drive a little bit, I’m going to walk as much as I can for the time being. It’s good exercise.