Last week I did a little cross-state road trip, talking to several high school classes in Yakima, Kennewick, and Burbank about teen driving.
While there I took a straw poll that suggests recent teen-driving trends hold true locally.
In particular, my informal poll showed that teens are, in fact, waiting until they’re older to get their licenses.
You might have seen posts on this blog citing studies that show a significant number of teens now wait until they’re 17, 18, or older to get a driver’s license. Many researchers blame fallout from the 2008 recession and costly driver’s-ed fees.
Others point to the advent of social media. Where in the past teens couldn’t wait to drive so they could escape the house and socialize with friends, teens today are connected 24x7 via text, Twitter, Facebook, you name it. So they socialize online rather than burn gas at $4 per gallon.
In Yakima and Kennewick I spoke to classes comprised mostly of seniors, and when I asked how many already have their licenses and drive, barely half – perhaps even fewer – raised their hands.
When I asked that question at Columbia High in Burbank, a small town east of Pasco, about three-fourths raised their hands. It caused me to wonder, does a more-rural location require students to drive out of necessity, because needed goods and services are farther away?
Regardless, none of those schools seemed to resemble the high school of my bygone era. Well over 75% of students seemed to drive in the 1970s, and most of them seemingly got their licenses as soon as they turned 16.
Of course, students in those days also played sports in the streets after school, rather than play video games indoors. And that created its own pedestrian safety teen-driver issue that, hopefully, concerns us less today.