AAA Mid-Atlantic: More Teens Getting their Driver’s License before Age 18
AAA urges more parent interaction as a result of new study trend
Hamilton, NJ, October 21, 2019 -This week is National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 20 - 26) and new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that more than 60 percent of teens got their driver’s license before the age of 18, an 11 percent increase since 2012.
“The trend for teens to acquire their driver’s license has changed over the past 10 years,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Many are getting licensed before the age of 18, which means more of Generation Z is learning to drive under the protection of state graduated driver licensing programs and parental supervision.”
The new AAA Foundation study surveyed young adults ages 18-24 to determine when they obtained their license and found:
- Nationally, 40.8 percent got their license at or before age 16
- 60.3 percent got their license before the age of 18.
- Only half (49.8 percent) of teens in large cities obtain their license before the age of 18, compared with nearly two-thirds of those in less urbanized areas.
- Fewer than a quarter (22.3 percent) of teens in the Northeast reported getting their license at or before age 16, while only 56 percent did so before age 18.
In New Jersey
New Jersey’s Graduated Driver Licensing Program has helped to boost teen driver safety through increased supervised driving experience and reduced exposure to high-risk driving situations. Components include: starting age of 16 after completing diver education, displaying a reflectorized decal on each license plate, passenger and cell phone use restrictions, and mandatory seat belt use requirements. New Jersey is one of only two states in the country that extends three-stage GDL provisions until age 21.
Room for Improvement
New Jersey is still one of only four states that does not have some sort of practice driving requirement for new drivers.
Thankfully, there is pending legislation (A4108/S335), if enacted, would eliminate this unenviable distinction by amending New Jersey’s graduated driver licensing law and require holders of examination permits and special learner's permits under the age of twenty-one to complete at least fifty hours of practice driving, ten hours of which be completed during hours of darkness.
AAA Clubs of New Jersey’s most recent survey of 600 motorists throughout the Garden State found broad support (77%) for requiring practice hours for new drivers.
“The importance of parental engagement with their teen drivers and the importance of enforcing New Jersey’s Graduated Licensing Program will be even more important based on the findings of this new AAA study,” says Tracy Noble, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “These are lifesaving measures.”
A previous AAA Foundation study found that drivers first licensed at age 18 are more likely to be involved in a crash resulting in injuries during their first year of solo driving than new drivers licensed at any other age. Nearly 28 percent of the young adults in the AAA Foundation survey reported waiting until they were 18 or older to get their license. Reasons young adults cited for delaying licensure included:
- Nervous about driving (68.4 percent)
- They could do everything they needed without driving (52.6 percent)
- Driving was too expensive (33.3 percent)
- Too busy to get a license (28.9 percent)
- Family members did not have time to help them get their license (20.5 percent)
“It is imperative that all new drivers practice driving with a skilled coach through a variety of routes and in different weather conditions before heading out on their own,” said Kurt Gray, Director of Driver Education and Driver Services for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Novice drivers shouldn’t let the first time that they drive in the rain or on the freeway be at a time when they’re alone.”
By setting parameters, new drivers can greatly minimize their risk of a crash. AAA recommends that regardless of their age when first learning to drive, new drivers should remember to “R.E.A.D the road”:
- R = Right speed, for right now: Always mind the speed limit and reduce your speed when traveling in adverse weather conditions.
- E = Eyes up, brain on: Always scan the road to anticipate dangers ahead. Eliminate distractions and keep your mind focused on the task of driving.
- A = Anticipate their next move: Be aware of other drivers on the road. Anticipate their next move and always have a plan to respond.
- D = Huge DONUT of space around your vehicle: Keep large amounts of space to the front and sides of your vehicle.
TeenDriving.AAA.com has a variety of tools to help prepare parents and teach new drivers the rules of the road. The online AAA StartSmart program also offers great resources for parents on how to become effective in-car coaches as well as advice on how to manage their teen’s overall driving privileges. Novice drivers preparing for the responsibility of driving alone should enroll in a driver education program that teaches how to avoid driver distraction and other safety skills.
About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit www.AAAFoundation.org.