Despite obtaining eligibility in high school, teen drivers wait longer to obtain their licenses

Despite obtaining eligibility in high school, teen drivers wait longer to obtain their licenses


While many students take driver’s education as soon as they are eligible, senior Ana Ros-Marrero did not start the process of getting her license until now. Ros-Marrero, who is now 17, has just recently gotten her permit.

“There were a lot of reasons why I didn’t take out the time to take the test and get my permit earlier,” Ros-Marrero said. “I was focused on school, and there were other things going on at home. Getting my license at 16 seemed kind of petty because I didn’t really need one.”

Ros-Marrero is just one of many teens in the nation who are waiting longer to get their driver’s licenses. In fact, analysis of data from the Federal Highway Administration and Census Bureau shows that 28 percent of 16-year-olds had their licenses in 2010, as opposed to 46 percent in 1983.

Larry Oswalt, Central Indiana Educational Service Center (CIESC) driving instructor, said he has noticed this trend in central Indiana because fewer students are now taking driver’s education, which means they have to wait longer to get their licenses. He cited the increased cost of driver’s education as the main reason teens are putting off getting their licenses.

“In the ’80s, the driver’s ed cars had advertisements from car dealerships,” Oswalt said. “The cars were paid for because they had the advertisements, so driver’s ed was cheaper. But today they don’t sponsor the cars, so the driver’s ed companies have to buy the automobiles in most cases. Now it costs $350 to take driver’s ed, and a lot of parents don’t have that money.”

Senior Ana Ros-Marrero texts her friends while waiting in the passenger seat for her ride. Ros-Marrero said she chose to take her time in getting a permit because having a license at age 16 did not seem necessary to her. CRYSTAL CHEN / PHOTO

However, the cost of driver’s education was not a major reason Ros-Marrero did not get her license sooner. Besides thinking that getting a license was not a priority, Ros-Marrero said she was also confused about the requirements for getting one.

“I honestly was not well-informed about any of the regulations or rules or anything you needed to apply to get your license,” Ros-Marrero said. “I had no idea how it worked here because where I used to live, (Puerto Rico) was completely different. We didn’t have to go through an amount of time with your permit to get your license. You just took a test and got your license; that was it.”

According to Oswalt, one pro of waiting longer to get a license is increased maturity. He said some students try to show off when driving by themselves. Others can get distracted by music and other people in the car.

However, Oswalt said he encourages students to get their licenses early if they are mature, one reason being the opportunity to drive themselves anywhere as opposed to their parents driving them.

“It helps parents a lot; parents are always driving, shuffling people around,” Oswalt said. “If a student gets their license at 16 and a half, then that parent doesn’t have to meet them there and take them there.”Untitled-1

While Ros-Marrero said she does rely on her parents for transportation, she also often asks her friends for rides, which she said she feels guilty at times for doing.

“It’s not the best thing ever because I feel kind of like a freeloader, but they’re usually okay with it if they live really close by,” Ros-Marrero said.

In addition, Oswalt said that it is often easier to learn to drive at a younger age.

“It’s harder to learn to drive when you’re older because you’ve grown these fears and inhibitions,” he said. “But young people can be calm, cool and collected.”