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Teen Drivers in Seattle Waiting Longer to Get Licenses - Does it make them worse drivers?

Max Meyers
Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.
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Does waiting a few years to get your driver's license make you a worse driver? That is the question raised by a recent Seattle Times news article, "Teens delay getting licenses — and their driving is worse." The report details some startling facts about driving culture, including the growing trend of teen drivers in Seattle waiting to get their licenses.

Statistics reveal that people who wait a few years to become licensed drivers may be missing out on fundamental driving education and experience. Because Washington state does not require drivers ed classes for people over 18 who seek a license, these older drivers may not receive the practical knowledge and experience necessary to be a safe driver.

According to the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL), the number of 15- to 17-year-olds obtaining their permits decreased by about four percent between 2004 and 2014. During that same period, the number of 18- to 21-year-olds getting their permit rose by 47 percent.

The Dangers of Teens Waiting for their Permits

There are many reasons more and more teens are putting off getting permits or licenses. One of the major barriers is the cost of driver's education classes, necessary for permit holders under the age of 18. When public schools stopped offering this important education for free, many teens under 18 could not afford the $400-500 course costs.

Once teens turn 18, they can get a permit and then their full drivers license without the driver's ed requirement. This allows a person, who may not have any practical experience, to obtain a license with just a written knowledge test and a simple skills test.

Teens who take driver's ed along with getting time behind the wheel with an adult are statistically shown to be safer drivers. The DOL tracked citations issued in 2012 by age and found that the 18- to 21-year-old group obtained a significantly higher average number of citations than their 16- to 17-year-old peers. Additionally, older teen drivers were more likely to fail their first driving test, 24 percent of 18- to 21-year-olds failed, compared to 11 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds.

Teaching Your Teen to Drive Safely

Driving instructor and former Bothell police officer Steve Phelan says parents involved in teaching their teens how to drive, "makes a huge difference." When driving with your children in the car, remember that they often emulate your driving habits. If you practice bad driving habits or unsafe maneuvers, they will come to believe that is the right way to drive.

If you can afford driving school, it can be a great benefit to your teen when learning to drive. Some teens may not pay as close attention to their parents as they would a teacher. Additionally, many parents admit that since it has been decades since their driver's test, they do not feel they can adequately prepare their child for the current test.

Aside from the passenger age restrictions and driving curfews that the state requires teens to follow, you should make your own rules about driving privilege. Cell phone use while driving has become one of the top hazards for teen drivers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 41.4 percent of teen drivers in 2013 admitted to texting or emailing while driving.

Try laying down the rules in a "Driving Contract" that clearly states the rules and any punishments for breaking those rules. The National Safety Council's teen driving website, Drive It Home, has a great resource for parents to make driving agreements that fit their family's needs.

Max Meyers Law is Here to Protect Your Teen Driver's Rights

A licensed teen driver who carries auto insurance has every right to file an injury claim when a car accident occurs. In order to collect a fair settlement from the insurance company, consult a knowledgeable Seattle car accident attorney to help represent your teen against the insurance adjuster.

Contact Max Meyers Law to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your potential claim: 425-242-5595.

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