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Washington teens delay licenses—are worse drivers

There was once a time when reaching the age to drive a car was one of the most exciting in a teenager’s life. Being able to drive provided new found freedom. It gave the sense they were a little closer to becoming an adult.

But these feelings are not currently gripping Washington teens who are in no hurry to get their license. Many of them are waiting until they are 18 or older before getting a license. However, older and wiser does not always mean better, as those who wait are generally worse drivers than the ones starting at the normal 14-16 age range.

Why are older teen drivers riskier than the younger ones?

Before the age of 18, teens must attend driver’s education training and get a permit to drive with restrictions. Those restrictions help keep them safe. Prior to the age of 18, drivers are not allowed to have passengers under 20 for the first six months. Driving between 1am-5am is also not allowed. These are not restrictions for someone who is 18. To receive a license at 18, a perspective driver just needs to pass a written test and in-person driving test. Technically, the first time a person over 18 ever drives a car could be while taking their test for a license. This lack of driving experience and education by older teens is showing unfortunate results. Traffic tickets in Washington are issued to more 18-and-19-year-olds than 16-and-17-year-olds. 

Why are teens waiting to drive?

According to a survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, only 44 percent of teens get a license within the year they are first eligible. By the age of 18, just a little over half the teenagers are licensed. As a comparison, two-thirds of teenagers had their license’s 20 years ago.

The main reasons teens are waiting to get their license include: they do not have a car, have other means of transportation, fuel/driving too expensive and just didn’t get around to it. Other factors include, being nervous about driving and not wanting to complete driver education course.

Another big reason teens are waiting to get licensed is it can cost around $500 for driver’s education in Washington. Since that class is not required to get a license for those 18 and older, teens under the age of 18 are waiting to drive so they can bypass the cost of the class. 

No relief in sight to combat inexperienced drivers

To educate and get more driving experience for 18-and-over drivers, back in 2016 Washington lawmakers proposed a driver’s education class for 18-to-21-year-olds seeking a license. The bill required up to 10 hours of classes and three hours behind the wheel lessons. However, the bill stalled and went away.

As it stands right now, the 18-year-old next to you at the stoplight may only have a couple of hours experience of actual driving time and never completed a driver’s education class.

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