Monday, March 17, 2008

I'm the family chauffeur, and I'm not alone...

(Image from Adrian Flux, a discussion of insurance for teen drivers in the UK.)

I'm a sucker for stories like this since I have 2 young drivers in the house. Yes, I've been the family chauffeur, though now that he has a license, that duty has devolved to Number One Son. He's tickled - for the moment - so we'll see how long that lasts.

But the bit that caught my attention was the reduced numbers of 16-year-olds with driver's licenses. They've fallen from half to about a third. The article speculates about the reasons for this, including the high cost of insurance, but it offers no definitive answers. Personally, I was extremely reluctant to toss the car keys to a kid whose main interests consist of girls, football, girls, Gran Turismo, and girls. Did I mention that he has an intense interest in girls?

Excerpts follow. Emphasis added. (Link to complete article)

Driving Miss Chloe

Published: March 16, 2008

Los Angeles

YOU know her — that nice teenager across the street? Chloe. There she is, sitting in one of the two captain’s seats in the midsection of her mom’s Toyota Sienna, bopping along to the music on her iPod. Now and then she pulls out one of the ear buds so that she can tell her mom some forgotten bit of news or gossip; Chloe’s mom is up to speed on the dramas that are always unfolding in her daughter’s circle of friends, just as she can tell you the date of her next French test, the topic of her coming history paper and the location and scope of her next community service project. They have a great night planned out: they’re going to pick up Chloe’s best friend and then drive back home for a night of DVDs and popcorn in the family room. Her mom will putter around close by, and her dad will probably sit down and watch one of the movies with the girls.

When I was in high school in the 1970s, we had a name for teenagers like Chloe: losers. If an otherwise normal girl thought that the best way to spend a Saturday night was home with her parents — not just co-existing with them, but actually hanging out with them — we would have been looking for a bucket of pig’s blood.


That a profound change has taken place in the relationship between American teenagers and their parents is made clear by statistics from the Federal Highway Administration showing a steady decline in the number of licensed teenage drivers. In the last decade, the proportion of 16-year-olds nationwide who hold driver’s licenses has dropped from nearly half to less than one-third.

The reasons have a great deal to do with the cost of car insurance and driver’s education programs. But among middle- and upper-middle-class young adults, the cohort that created the teenage car culture, the propulsive energy that once served to blast an adolescent away from his or her parents has begun to drain away. Teenagers report that they don’t need to drive: their parents are willing to take them where they want to go, and they are content to ride shotgun with Mom, texting and yakking all the way to the mall.



Blogger Fritz said...

I've worked with teens at church for about a decade now, and I'm frankly stunned that many teens these days simply have no interest in learning to drive.

I think there's more than just the cost of driving involved. Kids today seem much more compliant and less independent than when you and I were teens. Among the middle school teens that I help teach in Sunday School, there's no angst, no anger, no doubt, no exploration, no rebellion -- just simple passive servile obedience. It makes the class easy to manage, but I think that's a little troubling but these children who are turning into adults aren't exploring the boundaries like I think they should.

I'm working my kids to think and act independently and to not be afraid of initiative and risk. Yeah, they mouth off to me and their mother sometimes, but that's part of their development into adults.

6:08 PM  
Blogger lemmiwinks said...

Fritz - that is really scary! Not the not driving part (I think that's good provided they use alternative transport - walk, cycle, take the bus, etc), the servile part.

I find it curious that 16 year old youths are allowed to drive 1.5 tonnes of steel and plastic around completely unsupervised. Here abouts, young drivers undergo a theory test, followed by a period of supervised driving (up to a year), followed by a practical test before they are permitted to go solo.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Ed W said...

"What are you rebelling against?"
"What have you got?"
....Marlon Brando in The Wild One.

Maybe teen risk aversion and over-developed conformity can be attributed to the rise of our 'security culture' since 9-11. Don't be too different. Don't split from the herd. Loners, rebels, non-conformists, and anyone else labeled as being outside the mainstream are somehow suspect.

Guys, we're suspect too. We ride bicycles, thumbing our noses at consumer culture, motoring culture, and other supposedly 'normal' parts of American life that revolve around buying more goods and kowtowing to our international gods of oil and money.

These teens we're talking about will never become cyclists. "Too dangerous" their parents will say, and the teens will incorporate that into their own thinking.

7:10 PM  

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