Imani Coker dreamed of getting her license starting in middle school. It was all she could think about for years.
“I can’t wait till I’m 15,” she told her friends.
When 15 arrived, Imani had a change of heart. Driving wasn’t much on her mind anymore. Now 16, she has yet to even get her learner’s permit.
“Getting my permit leads to getting my license. If I get my license, my parents will suck the fun out of driving by sending me places. I have friends who drive. Not to mention insurance is expensive as heck. The streets are filled with crazy drivers, and I don’t want to become one of them.”
Coker, who lives in Richmond Heights, is among a growing number of teens for whom driving has taken a back seat. So as students start their summer break, many will be catching rides to jobs, camp, the beach, the mall.
Driving has been a traditional rite of passage — learner’s permit at 15, full license at 16. So why are teens putting off what used to be a lifelong dream?
As Coker put it: Too many headaches, not enough benefits.
Coker has plenty of company. According to a study by the University of Michigan’ Transportation Research Institute, the number of American teens getting their license is dropping more and more each year. Between 1983 and 2010, the number of 17-year-olds who got a driver’s license plummeted from 69 percent to 46 percent.
Miami-Dade and Broward mirror the national trend. In 2007, for instance, 15,000 16-year-olds got their driver’s license. That number dropped to 11,000 in 2014, according to the Florida Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles.
“As Florida’s population grows, we have noticed a drop in the number of youth licenses,” said John Lucas, a spokesman for the agency. Twenty years ago, 70 percent of 18-year-olds had their license. Today, only 54 percent do. But in some cases, it isn’t the teen that’s making the choice.
High gas and insurance prices are taking a huge toll on parents’ decisions to keep their teens in the passenger seat. “I want to get my daughter a car, but with such high prices, it would be best to wait until the start of the new school year,” said Marie Fernandez of Palmetto Bay, whose daughter Natalie attends Florida Christian School.
A teen driver can be added to either a parent’s insurance policy or start one of his or her own. Either way, Florida requires teens to have insurance. “It’s usually cheaper to add a teen to his or her parents’ policy rather than buy a separate policy,” said Mike Barry, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute.
Keeping insurance rates down is one reason some parents want their teens to keep their learning permits longer.
But why does a premium soar when teens are added? It’s all in the statistics: Teen drivers 16 to 19 are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than drivers 20 and older, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an industry group based in Virginia. And adding a teen driver typically increases an insurance premium by 83.94 percent in Florida, according to a study fromInsuranceQuotes.com.
Some auto insurance companies offer various discounts on teen insurance policies. Good grades? Discount. Educated driver? Discount. Low-mileage driver? Discount. “Driving training” grad? Discount.
Then there’s the cost of gas to worry about, as well as parking, tolls and maintenance costs. But those aren’t the only obstacles.
Household income plays a huge role in whether or not teens will be licensed drivers. In homes with an annual income of $20,000 or less, only 25 percent of teens are likely to get their license. Some 75 percent of teens are likely to get their license if they live in a home with an annual income of $100,000 or more, according to a AAA survey.
Then there’s parental angst over Miami-area traffic as well as distraction from studies. Stephanie Cravez is concerned with the safety and grades of her daughter Jessica Cravez, who attends Killian High. “If her grades are slipping, I take the car keys away, simple as that.”
Source: Insurance News Net