Pew Trust - The share of high school seniors across the country who have a driver’s license dropped from 85.3 percent in 1996 to a record low 71.5 percent in 2015, according to data from the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey.
The drop has been sharpest in the South, where the share of high school seniors with a driver’s license fell from 88.6 percent in 1996 to 71.2 percent in 2015. High school seniors are most likely to have a license in the Midwest — 80.4 percent — and least likely to have one in the Northeast — 64.8 percent.
Part of the reason is economic: fewer jobs, especially during the Great Recession, which meant teens didn’t need to get to work and had less money to bankroll their rides. But even as the economy improved, the share of high school seniors with a license has generally been on the decline. That’s partly a result of tough new rules imposed on young drivers and an explosion in ride-hailing and ride-sharing services.
The shift appears to be having a direct impact on safety.
Drivers aged 16 to 19 are among the most dangerous on the road. They are three times more likely than older drivers to be in a fatal crash. But even as that teenage population has increased from 14.9 million in 1996 to 16.9 million in 2015, the number of drivers in that age group involved in fatal crashes fell by more than half, from 6,021 to 2,898, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an industry-funded nonprofit.