Waiting to Get Behind the Wheel

. August 31, 2018.
Sandy Goetz and her teen sons, Parker (L) and Jarad (R).
Sandy Goetz and her teen sons, Parker (L) and Jarad (R).

Remember when teens couldn’t wait to get their license and start driving? Now, an increasing number of students are postponing getting their driving license until 18. While there are many reasons for this delay many cite financial concerns, convenience, fear of road rage, and being too busy with other commitments as reasons why they waited to get behind the wheel.

“I didn’t complete driver’s training until mid 17, my brother was mid 16. For some reason I wasn’t in a rush to get a license,” said Jarad Goetz, a Dexter area teen. “I feel like it is because I didn’t have a job that required me needing to transport myself frequently and I usually had someone who was able to take me places when needed. I took a break between driver’s training segments.”

Investment and commitment are factors

Goetz also cited the cost of driving as a factor. “I would say that my biggest concerns with driving lie in the financial aspect,” recalled Goetz. “It is very expensive compared to other modes of transportation. The cost of gas and maintenance as well as purchasing a vehicle and the corresponding insurance requires a lot of investment and commitment.”

In addition to the financial concerns, Jarad’s brother, Parker, cited safety reasons. “Rising gas prices and several people have almost hit me because of their driving,” said Parker Goetz.

Jarad and Parker’s mother, Sandy Goetz, supported her sons’ decisions. She shared many of the same concerns. The one word that describes her opinion about teen driving: “scary.”

“(It is) so much more stressful than when we drove: the distractions, phone, radio, more road rage,” explains Sandy. “When I was driving at that age, the only real worry was what to play on the radio, or what tape to play, and where we were going to hang out.”

Sandy Goetz said that although it may make her life easier for kids to start driving at 16, so they can drive themselves around, she wanted to fully support their decision. “As a parent we have always taken our kids lead,” she said. “If they are interested and serious about it, then great; if not, then great.” Sandy does, however, like how the state now awards licenses in a two-step process now. “I do have to say that the gradual licenses are a good idea as it gives the kids a better chance at being a better driver.”

Roads are less than friendly

Other Ann Arbor-area teens interviewed cited financial and safety consideration as reasons why they wanted to wait until 18 to get their driver’s license.

Particularly notable, many girls interviewed reported that they have witnessed increased road rage over the years and are scared of many drivers. Girls who expressed their opinions requested that their names and school that they attend remain anonymous, but also cited increased distractions when driving such as using the phone or texting as factors.

Still, some teens are itching to get their license. Josh Caldwell attends Community High School in Ann Arbor and started driving in the fall of 2017. He currently has his driving permit.

Josh Caldwell, pictured with his mother Terry, enjoys the freedom that comes with having a drivers license.

Josh Caldwell, pictured with his mother Terry, enjoys the freedom that comes with having a drivers license.

“I really like driving and I cannot wait to have my license and have more freedom,” said Caldwell. “It is a big responsibility however and I realize that.” He said he is not really scared of driving, but is concerned about safety due to other people’s driving. “I am just scared because some people do not know how to drive and make bad decisions while behind the wheel,” said Caldwell.

Josh’s mother, Terry Caldwell, also has some concerns about driving. “Due to the statistics of accidents, it makes me very nervous. We have ‘smart’ cars, it will be nice when they are smart enough to block usage of phones while a car is in motion,” said Terry Caldwell. “If it is true that most deadly accidents happen with teens between 16-18 or so, perhaps changing the driving alone age needs to be looked at. At least on highways or after a certain time. But that isn’t really fair as it isn’t all teens. Having a 15 year old gives me lots of opinions, and many of them are conflicting.”

So while those interviewed generally agreed they would be more apt to get their license sooner if costs weren’t high and the roads were safer, mobility freedom remains the primary reason to pass that driver’s license test. It sounds like some things have changed for teens, but much remains the same.