I've finally had the chance to shake my head disparagingly and utter, "kids these days.''
And what gave me that opportunity to feel like an old person, a veteran of life, a person brimming with the wisdom that only people of my generation possess, is the fact that I'm seeing and hearing about a lot of teen-agers who don't bother getting a driver's license or learner's permit.
This is not just a Brittany observation. There are signs out there that fewer minors are getting their licenses. Read this USA Today article about fewer teens getting cars, as well.
Please tell me that when you were a teen, you got off your lazy rear and took whatever test was required, and jumped through absolutely every hoop held out, in order to get those car keys in your hands. I know that I did, even though the keys were to the ignition of a stinking station wagon.
Yet now that my son, Creed, is 15, and he went through the not-very-laborious process to get his learner's permit, I'm finding out about a lot of teens who haven't bothered. I'm hearing from lots of parents whose kids haven't shown interest.
I have no good working theory on it. No one I've talked to is quite sure, either. I'm leaning toward thinking it's because kids these days are spoiled, which is my pat answer for all their ills, and in general is accurate.
Click here to see one person's theories, including that everything kids need is just a web click away. What do they need cars for?
This writer mentions that kids are taught now that cars are polluting machines, so maybe that has something to do with it.
I'm going to hang it out here today, though, as an unsolved mystery. There's something about it that rattles me.
On the jump: A story we wrote about this three years ago.
. Teen in no rush to drive
Fewer getting their licenses as soon as they are old enough
Date: Sunday, November 4, 2007
Edition: Broward Metro Section: News Page: 1A
Byline: By Jamie Malernee Staff Writer
Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.
Illustration: Photo(s) Graphic(s)
The car sits in the driveway, waiting.
Kevin Krutek, 16, has had private driving lessons and taken driver's ed - twice. Yet he hasn't bothered to get his driver's license, and the car he could call his own, a Ford Focus that belonged to his older brother, sits unused in front of his Lighthouse Point home.
"I could get the license if I took the test, I just don't feel the urgency," said Krutek, a junior at Pompano Beach High. "I don't see what the big deal is."
Statistics from the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles indicate increasing numbers of Florida teens, like Krutek, are waiting longer to get their drivers' licenses.
In 1991, 16-year-olds made up 60 percent of the teen drivers issued licenses that year. Now they're only 40 percent. The percentage of teens who were 18 or 19 when they got their license has increased, from 24 percent to almost 40 percent.
Driver's education teachers, parents and teens suggest several reasons, from tougher license requirements to a growing awareness of the dangers of driving. The high cost of gas and insurance, as well as protective parents, may also be factors.
"It's not just my son. A lot of his friends just don't seem to have that oomph, the 'wanna do,' " said Bim Krutek, Kevin's mother.
In 1996, Florida started requiring teens to have a learner's permit for six months before applying for a permanent license. In 2000, the mandatory wait increased to a year. What's more, novice drivers must obey curfews or be accompanied by someone at least 21 unless they are going to or from work. You must be at least 16 to have an operating license.
Bill Massey, a driver's education instructor at Boca Raton High School, knows firsthand that it takes more time and effort for his students to meet the tougher requirements for a license. And he thinks that's good.
"I make [my own children] wait until the summer before their senior year. I just don't think they are really mature enough. It's too much responsibility for that age, to put them in a ... potential death machine."
Danielle Mueller, a 20-year-old from Plantation who knew two schoolmates killed in separate car crashes, said fear kept her from getting behind the wheel for several years. She didn't get her license until she turned 18, and just started driving on Interstate 95 this year to travel between her home and college, the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
The memory of her dead friends from Nova High - Rebecca Kirtman, an honors student who was Mueller's science lab partner, and Michael DiPasquo, a family friend Mueller was on the swim team with - stays with her. Rebecca, 16, was killed in 2003 when she lost control of her Mustang and got trapped under a truck. DiPasquo, 18, was coming home from a day at the beach last August when his Dodge Neon hit another car and caromed into the path of an oncoming pickup. He was declared dead at the scene. One of the four teenagers riding with him, Jannel Jasmine Thompson, 14, died the next day of her injuries.
Exposure to such tragedies "makes you more cautious," Mueller said.
Rosslynn Rodriguez, 15, of Boca Raton figures she probably will wait until she is 17 to get her license. Given the dangers of driving - her mother got into an accident and now has neck pain, and her uncle suffers memory loss from a crash - she feels that it is better to let her mother drive her around.
"It's easier. You don't have the trouble of worrying about anything," she said.
For many families, there are also financial factors, said Albert Guzzo, a driver's ed instructor at Hallandale High. Many of his students have no way to practice driving outside class.
"We have kids whose families don't own a car," he said. "They walk or take the bus."
Some teens intend to get a job to buy their own wheels, but then they calculate the cost vs. the benefit.
"They are starting to realize that when they are working at Boomers for $5.75 an hour, when they have to pay for a car, what that's going to do" to their earnings, he said.
John Pisula, a spokesman for State Farm Insurance, said his company doesn't track whether Florida teens are waiting longer to get their licenses. But he knows many parents are concerned about the cost of adding a young driver to their insurance.
"Let's face it, parents don't want to have to pay that bill for a 15-year-old that doesn't use the car that much anyway," Pisula said.
Adding a teen to a policy can boost insurance premiums between 50 and 100 percent, according to the Insurance Information Institute, a trade group.
Bim Krutek, who remembers being impatient to drive as a teenager, wonders if overprotective Baby Boomer parents haven't stifled independence in their teenage offspring by agreeing to be 24/7 chauffeurs.
She admits sometimes to doing this herself. A working mother, Krutek takes her son to school in the morning for the time it gives them together. On weekends, she drops Kevin off at friends' houses, the movies and the bowling alley, then picks him up at night.
"I have a midnight limit, but some of the parents go and pick them up at 3 o'clock in the morning," she said.
She added that she is sure her son's desire to drive will increase as he matures. For now, Kevin says there is really only one scenario he can imagine that might spur him to stop using his mother as his driver:
"That," he said with a laugh, "would be some pretty good motivation."
Jamie Malernee can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4849.
Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.
Tougher rules, risky roads, pricey insurance and overprotective parents are among the reasons more teens are waiting to get their drivers' licenses.
Video report looks at why teens are waiting longer to get drivers' licenses. Sun-Sentinel.com/teendrivers
To address parental fears of young drivers committing offenses behind the wheel without their parents' knowledge, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles now allows parents to go to its Web site and check the driving record of their children by entering their driver's license number, date of birth and Social Security number.
The Web site is
The site also offers a link to a Florida company that sells "Teen Trackers" - electronic devices that parents can install in a car that lets them "locate, track, determine speed limits, and even create areas that are off limits" for their children. It uses a global positioning system that notifies parents by e-mail or cellular phone if an infraction occurs.
Pay more for insurance
Auto insurance rates for teens depend on several factors:
Gender: Premiums are higher for males because they have higher accident and speeding ticket rates.
Type of car: New cars can be safer, but sometimes also more expensive to insure.
Other factors: Discounts sometimes given for completing a safety program or for having good grades.
In general, however, adding a teen to an insurance policy can increase the cost by between 50 and 100 percent.
Source: Insurance Information Institute.
Time to take the test
Requirements for getting a Florida driver's license:
Be at least 16 years old and have had a learner's permit for at least a year without any traffic convictions.
Must have at least 50 hours of driving experience, 10 of which must be at night.
Must pass a driving test, which includes written questions and a behind-the-wheel skills test, as well as a hearing and vision test.
Car crashes are the No. 1 cause of death among American teens
The number of fatal accidents involving 15- to 20-year-old drivers in 2005 was the lowest in 10 years.
Source: Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Caption: Starting out slow: Christian Harvey, 15, practices driving on a simulator during his driver's education class at Boca Raton High School, where he is a sophomore. If he follows the trend, it will be several years before Harvey gets his driver's license.
Staff photo/Mark Randall
On the road: Cameron Mercado, 15, checks for traffic before pulling away from the curb during his lesson at Boca Raton High School, where he is a sophomore.
Staff photo/Mark Randall
At his own speed: Kevin Krutek, 16, has taken private driving lessons and driver's ed - twice - but he hasn't bothered to get his driver's license. "I could get the license if I took the test. I just don't feel the urgency," says Krutek, a junior at Pompano Beach High School.
Staff photo/Robert Mayer
CHART: Teen Drivers. Percentage issued by age. Source: Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Staff graphic/Belinda Long
Keywords: TEEN DRIVING STATISTIC
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