Number of teen drivers growing in Ohio

By Kimberly Schwind - Special to the Inquirer

COLUMBUS — A growing number of teens are obtaining their license before they turn 18, according to new research form the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. During National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 20-26), AAA will be working with state and community partners on events and legislation to help keep all teen drivers safe on Ohio’s roads.

Growth in Teen Licensure:

The new AAA Foundation study surveyed young adults, ages 18-24 to determine when they obtained their license. Researchers found more than 60 percent of teens got their driver’s license before age 18, an 11 percent increase since 2012. Other findings show:

Teens living in the Midwest tend to be licensed at younger ages, as 70 percent of Midwest teens obtained their license before age 18.

Only half of teens in large cities obtained their license before age 18, compared with nearly two-thirds of those living in less urbanized areas.

This new report reveals a changing trend in teen licensure from when the AAA Foundation first evaluated the issue in 2012. At that time, the country was just emerging from a recession and many young people cited their family’s inability to afford the high cost of driving as a reason why they did not obtain their license sooner.

In the most recent AAA Foundation survey, the top two reasons for delaying licensure include:

  • Nervous about driving (68.4 percent)
  • They could do everything they needed without driving (52.6 percent)

Need for More Protection:

Previous AAA Foundation research found new teen drivers ages 16-17 years-old are three times as likely as adults to be involved in deadly crashes. All states, including Ohio, have in place graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems for 16-17 year-old drivers to help them gradually learn the rules of the road under less risky conditions (supervised driving, passenger limits, nighttime protections, etc.).

“The fact that more teens are starting to drive when they can gradually learn the necessary skills to be safe behind the wheel is great news for all drivers,” said Jennifer Ryan, AAA director of state relations.

Unfortunately, Ohio’s system for licensing young drivers hasn’t kept up with the latest research on teen driver crashes and how to prevent them. As a result, young driver crash rates in Ohio remain unnecessarily high. Nearly 38,000 injuries and fatalities occurred in Ohio teen driver crashes during the past five years, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) crash data.

House Bill 106, sponsored by Representative, Gary Scherer (R) and Representative Michael Sheehy (D), proposes to modernize Ohio’s young driver licensing system by:

Giving teens a full year of experience with a learners permit before they get their license. (Currently teens are only required to have their permit for six months.)

Ensuring newly licensed teen drivers are supervised by an adult while driving after 10 p.m., for the first 6 months of licensure, with exemptions for work, school and religious activities. (Current nighttime driving protections start at midnight.

“It is imperative that all new drivers practice driving with a skilled coach through a variety of routes and in different weather conditions before heading out on their own,” said Dr. Bill Van Tassel, AAA manager of driver training programs. “Novice drivers shouldn’t let the first time that they drive in the rain or on the freeway be at a time when they’re alone.”

AAA is partnering with organizations across the state to hold several teen driver safety week events, including: Teens Behind the Wheel: A day devoted to young drivers’ safety (The Blackwell Inn Ballroom, 2110 Tuttle Park Place, Columbus): Monday, Oct. 21, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Details here. has a variety of tools to help prepare parents and teach new drivers the rules of the road. The online AAA StartSmart program also offers great resources for parents on how to become effective in-car coaches as well as advice on how to manage their teen’s overall driving privileges. Novice drivers preparing for the responsibility of driving alone should enroll in a driver education program that teaches how to avoid driver distraction and other safety skills.×380-780×380.jpg

By Kimberly Schwind

Special to the Inquirer

Kimberly Schwind is a senior public relations manager at AAA Ohio Auto Club

Kimberly Schwind is a senior public relations manager at AAA Ohio Auto Club