teens who don’t want to drive

Some teens are excited and ready to drive in the United States, but the latest thing that many parents are lamenting is that their teen doesn’t want to drive or even attempt to get their license.  This phenomenon has even hit mainstream news sources, like in this article by National Geographic.  It is definitely a national trend that I don’t think has an end in sight.  We are seeing a true shift that I think will last generations and may even extend as car technology changes.

I have read many of the articles on this subject, observed many of my teen’s friends, and have come up with some ideas of why this trend may be…

  1.  Teens are working less. You might wonder what this has to do with driving, but hear me out.   If the emphasis is placed on academic success rather than school being something one does in addition to other things, then the teen may not have the time or motivation to get a job due to so much homework and extra classes.  If they don’t have a job, they may not have money to pay for gas or insurance, let alone to save up for a car.  The teens I know who are driving the most  have a job!
  2. Teens have more friends on-line and are dating less than previous generations.  There is less reason to go out of the house.  Teens are no longer going to the mall and hanging out – they can hang out and shop in their rooms.  They may not be running out of the house to go pick up their girlfriend.   The digital age has changed the landscape of adolescence forever.
  3. Many teens have anxiety ( I have read estimates that span anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of the teen population, depending upon what criteria is used), and the feeling that you could die or you could kill someone while driving a car makes driving a less than  tantalizing proporition to many teens.
  4. There are alternatives – rides with friends, Uber, public transportation, walking, and yes….parents often started  driving their children to activities at earlier ages, and are continuing, so why give that up?

Here are a few of my suggestions in dealing with reluctant teens –

I think the philosophy is always that the parents will do things for their children until the child can take it over for themselves.  In general, this age might be determined just by readiness cues and  seeing how responsibile the child  is in doing what needs to be done under supervision and then independently.  In the case of driving, the ability to drive is dictated by state laws, by learning new skills under supervision,by testing,  and yes, I think by having incentive.  So if your teen is reluctant to drive, perhaps have a conversation about expectations and what is holding your teen back.  Are your expectations clear to yourself and to them?

If you want your teen to learn to drive, and they are already feeling overwhelmed with schoolwork and activities, you may need to clear some space so they have the time to learn to drive.  It isn’t like cramming for an academic test.  It requires time, space, practice.

They may not want to learn to drive with you.  Or they may not want to learn with all their siblings in the car.  Some will learn better with Driver’s Education, some will learn better with a trusted relative or neighbor.

Figure out the expectation for how to pay for gas, insurance, a car.  These things can really hold teens back. If they have no car to drive or no way to pay for gas or insurance because they don’t have a job, what is the incentive for obtaining a license to drive?

Address anxiety. Sometimes having a timeline, a driving instructor, etc can help an anxious teen break things down into steps that seem doable.  The idea of testing may also provoke anxiety.   And as much as I hate to say it, I know people who never were comfortable driving and nearly always lived in areas where there was good public transportation available.  It may be hard to think this way if you live in an area where good public transportation doesn’t exist, but that may be where your teen ends up as an adult.

Lower your expectations.  Most of the new drivers I know are driving surface streets to school and back (probably a 5 miles radius) or to a job that is also within a five mile radius.  Not every new driver is ready to drive all over the city.  Think about where your teen would be okay driving when they do get their licenses.  This is particularly important for homeschooling families, who many times do have classes or activities that are far away.  If you goal is for that teen to drive to those far away things, your teen may or may not be comfortable with that as a new driver.

Would love to hear your thoughts,

6 thoughts on “teens who don’t want to drive

  1. I have a 16 year old daughter who has no desire to drive right now. She plans to get her license when she turns 18, and I’m fine with that plan. It saves money not only on classes, but also for the family insurance. When a teen starts driving all the insurance rates in a family go up, and to be honest, while I would support her if she chose to learn to drive, I am just as glad we do not have that added expense right now.
    Also, if she is not feeling ready to drive, I would not want to push her into that responsibility and then have something tragic happen. Given that the CDC says “Motor vehicle fatality is the leading cause of accident death among teenagers, representing over one-third of all deaths to teenagers,” I don’t have any problem continuing to drive my daughter to the activities she needs to get to for a few more years.
    We do talk about driving more now than we did in past years, I point out when I’m in a tricky situation and talk about the choices I make and why. I hope these conversations help her when she does start driving.

  2. Carrie,

    Hello! We’re back in Georgia and I just wanted to let you know that I was one of the reluctant teen drivers. Drivers ed in high school was a joke for me where I very rarely had practice driving on a parking lot. I could always find friends to drive me to shopping, movies, and parties and I even found a job within walking distance from my house. This extended through my freshman year of college. I planned to move to NYC where I wouldn’t need to drive!

    When I was eighteen I finally learned to drive and got my driver’s license. I was motivated to drive to temp agency jobs and to see my boyfriend. My parents helped not only with insurance, but also provided a used car. Yes, I was (AM) completely spoiled!

    My mom despaired that I would ever learn and gain my independence, yet it still somehow happened.

    Hope you and yours are doing well! Renée On Feb 7, 2019 8:47 AM, “The Parenting Passageway” wrote:

    > Carrie posted: “Some teens are excited and ready to drive in the United > States, but the latest thing that many parents are lamenting is that their > teen doesn’t want to drive or even attempt to get their license. This > phenomenon has even hit mainstream news sources, like” >

    • Welcome back, Renee! Thank you for sharing your story; I am sure moms of reluctant teen drivers everywhere will find support and relief in what you shared! Blessings and love, Carrie

  3. I was a reluctant driver. I’d read the statistics about teen accidents. I worked, but I took the bus to my jobs and my mom would pick me up if I got off late. I finally got my DL when I was 19 because I wanted to be an RA at my college and RAs at my school needed to be able to drive activity vans. I don’t regret not being able to drive I high school, I don’t plan to encourage my kids to drive until they feel the need. Insurance costs are one factor, but so is safety. I also would rather my kids get fluent in our local (though limited) public transit and bike trails/routes.

    We’ve always been a family that tries not to drive everyday if possible as well. Cars should be treated like meat, as a luxury that we try to use sparingly.

  4. Pingback: teens who don’t want to drive – Parents Article – Parents Blog

  5. Although I am 34 now, at 15 I was convinced I wasn’t going to drive. My main hang up was anxiety. A close family had a terrible head on collision just a couple years prior to that time, with the son having a sci, that resulted in paraplegia. To help me along after my permit, my parents let me drive alone or with my sister in the church parking lot next door to practice. I also found crunching on tictacs helped calm my nerves while I drove. My parents were not pushy, but encouraging that it would benefit the family if I drove. With support, and a million tictacs, I got my license right along with my peers!

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