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Waiting until 18 to drive? Delayed licensing facts

facts on delayed licensing

They say good things come to those who wait.

But for teens who wait until 18 to get their driver’s licenses? Well, maybe not. At least, not according to Washington State Department of Licensing statistics reported in The Seattle Times.

It seems that by foregoing graduated licensing at age 16 or 17 – and the required driver’s ed classes, parental driving instruction, and passenger and nighttime restrictions that come with it – 18-year-olds are less prepared to hit the road than their younger counterparts.

They have more trouble passing their driver’s test. And once they do, they get more tickets.

Eighteen-year-olds fail their first driving test 24% of the time, compared with 11% of 16- and 17-year-olds. What’s more, in their first two years behind the wheel, drivers who wait until age 18 rack up about three times as many tickets compared with drivers licensed at 16.

Even more worrisome is the fatal crash rate. A nationwide study by the California Department of Motor Vehicles compared states with strict graduated licensing laws to states with lax laws. In the rigorous states, researchers found 26% fewer crashes among 16-year-old drivers (who went through the training and restrictions) but 12% more fatal crashes among 18-year-olds (who simply waited out the requirements). See graduated licensing specifics for your state.

The study adjusted for variables in state seatbelt laws and speed limits, and the fact that 18-year-old drivers outnumber 16-year-old drivers. The difference seemed to be the drivers’ real-world experience. With no training or practice period required, 18-year-olds can get full driving rights the minute they pass their state’s written and road tests.

So if graduated licensing works so well, why don’t more kids take advantage of it? For some, the end of subsidized driver’s ed in most school districts has put training out of reach financially (most private driver’s ed programs cost around $500). Costs are hefty for maintaining, fueling, and insuring cars, too. And other kids just don’t feel the urgency. They use social media to connect with friends in ways their parents could achieve only by hopping in their cars.

The big takeaway for parents? Whether they drive at 16, 18, or sometime after college, new drivers need sensible limits and experience – the kind that comes only through hours of careful training – before taking that first solo drive.

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