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Florida teens opting out of drivers licenses

The number of teenagers getting behind the wheel of a car is on a downward slope, as more and more youngsters opt out of obtaining licenses.

Broward and Palm Beach counties each had roughly 3,000 fewer licensed drivers aged 15 to17 this year than they did in 2006, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. 

Experts say that for a growing number of teenagers, obtaining a drivers license is more of a financial burden than a ticket to freedom.

“Gas and car insurance are really expensive nowadays,” said Felicia Mallory, a junior at Coral Glades in Coral Springs, who has no urge to get her license. She walks to school and catches rides from her friends.

“I’m still a minor, where am I going to go?” she asked.

Between 2006 to 2014, the number of teenage drivers statewide fell by 15 percent from 386,000 to about 330,000. In Broward, 30,612 teens had licenses this year compared to 33,982 in 2006. In Palm Beach County, there were 22,344 drivers ages 15 to 17 this year, versus 25,369 in 2006.

Experts point to an array reasons for the shift, from stagnant wages and the recession to subtler advances in communication.

“Young folks would rather spend their money on an iPhone than a car,” said professor Bruce Stephenson, director of the Planning in Civic Urbanism masters program at Rollins College.

“I can’t afford a car so I’d rather wait until I’m a hired employee,” said Angel Akkasha, a junior at Monarch High in Coconut Creek, who opted out of getting a license.

He said his friends or his parents usually drive him around.

“It’d be nice to have [a license] … but until I’m close to getting a car, it isn’t imperative,” said Akkasha, 17.

Stephenson said the push for more mass-transit options, walkable communities, green transportation and the growing desire for urban living could have teens tapping the brakes on getting a license.

Economics aside, teens do not see automobiles the same way their parents did, he added.

“The car is not the status symbol it once was,” said Stephenson.

Mallory, 16, said many of her friends ask for digital devices for their birthdays now.

“Students don’t like to get cars for their 16th birthdays anymore because of the economy,” she said.

If the trend continues, researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute said it could have major impacts on car sales, travel safety and the environment.

kyi@tribune.com or 954-356-4528, Twitter: @karen_yi

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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