VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A driver’s license is like a ticket to freedom for teenager, or at least that’s the way it’s been viewed for generations.
But 10 On Your Side discovered many teens today are shunning the open road.
Data obtained from the Virginia DMV shows a sharp decline in teen drivers, a 55 percent drop in the number of 16 year olds getting a driver’s license between 2000 and 2015.
In an effort to discover why this is happening, 10 On Your Side talked with driving instructors, AAA and a young woman who delayed getting her license for 8 years.
“I froze up on the wheel too hard,” said Raven Lamb. “So I’m 24 and I’m getting my license.”
10 On Your Side found fear is the driving force behind many teens delaying their drivers license exams.
“It’s scary getting out on the road at 16 cause you’re trying to make sure you don’t hit nobody and you see the news, all these accidents and you’re like ‘oh my God I don’t want to hit nobody,’ ” Lamb told WAVY.com.
While mock accidents and movies are shown in driver’s education classes to deter dangerous driving habits, Katrina Harris, director of Aapex driving school in Virginia Beach, fears they’ve gone too far.
“We’re scaring them with videos on texting and driving and drinking and driving and all those things, if we only talk about the negative things they forget about all the positive.”
Positives Harris said, like learning responsibility and gaining some freedom.
Although graduated licenses do restrict young drivers in Virginia.
“They are only allowed to have one teen passenger in the car other then family members for an entire year,” explained AAA Tidewater’s Vice President of public relations, Georjeane Blumling.
AAA has looked into this phenomenon of delayed driving. They found graduated licenses don’t deter teens, but cost does.
Fewer of them have jobs and the money to pay for a car, gas or insurance.
“I think there’s a lot that goes into it, it’s not one specific thing,” Blumling said.
One concern AAA expressed about delaying drivers licenses is that once a person turns 18 they are no longer subject to the restrictions of a graduated license.
Blumling said that could be a safety concern since they are still inexperienced.
Most high schools in Hampton Roads no longer offer behind the wheel training as part of their driver’s education curriculum. Driving school is another expense.
Seven lessons at Aapex driving school cost $250.
So, many teens are finding other cheaper ways to get around.
Cities like Norfolk are working to expand the Tide (public transportation) and designating bicycle lanes.
There’s also Uber and Lyft., which Lamb used frequently, “I did Ubers for awhile but that adds up quick, it was like $300 a month for Uber and I was like – I might as well just get my own car.”
Now, 8 years after she was eligible, she’s in driving school. “I don’t have fear no more really.”
She is driving home the point being made by many in her generation, “If you’re not ready yourself, you’re not going to do it.’
The road will wait.