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Teens Delay Driving In Favor of Surfing the 'Net

Teen driver

My stepson will be 16 in February. In Colorado, where he lives most of the year with his mom, he could have had a learner’s permit on his last birthday.

He doesn’t have one yet. As far as I know, the only time he’s ever been behind the wheel of a car was one time when he was 12 and his dad let him spin around a huge empty parking lot in slow motion to celebrate having grown tall enough to reach the pedals.

On his most recent visit, I asked him when he’d be allowed to get a license. He sort of shrugged and said he didn’t know.

I cannot imagine being within striking distance of my 16th birthday and not knowing (or apparently caring) when I would be allowed to get a driver’s license. It is amazing to me that he does not have a permit yet. He apparently needs some paperwork from us to get it, and when he was here visiting last week just forgot to take it back with him.

He’s not alone in not caring. A new report out from the Pew Internet and American Life Project says the number of teen drivers has fallen by millions in the past few years. The reason: the Internet.

According to the report, teenagers are blowing off learning to drive in favor of surfing the World Wide Web from the comfort of the couch. With texting, Skype, video games, movies and everything Google has to offer at the tips of their fingers, these kids don’t feel the same burning need to go prowl around the 7-11 parking lot with their friends in the evening. You can be talking with your buddies AND not be hassled by the cops.

Learning to drive has long been an American rite of passage, but it’s one we can live without. Putting teenagers behind the wheel is dangerous, says the CDC. Research shows that pushing the legal driving age up to 17 or 18 can dramatically cut the number of fatal accidents involving teens.

Insuring a teen driver is also extremely expensive. Insurance for teenage drivers can run over $1000 a year.

All told, I’m not too eager to push my stepson off the couch and into the driver’s seat.

What about you? Have you noticed teens delaying driving? Is this a blessing in disguise or the end of an era?

Photo: Doug MacCaughan

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