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Factors Associated with High School Students’ Delayed Acquisition of a Driver’s License: Insights from Three Northern California Schools

UCD-ITS-RP-15-82

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Suggested Citation:
Brown, Rod and Susan L. Handy (2015) Factors Associated with High School Students’ Delayed Acquisition of a Driver’s License: Insights from Three Northern California Schools. Transportation Research Record 2495, 1 - 13

In recent years the number of teenagers and young adults acquiring a driver’s license has declined in many developed countries worldwide, with long-term implications for transportation planning. However, the reasons for this decline are only partially understood. Some research has focused on surveys of young drivers without licenses, but few studies have looked at the characteristics and attitudes of youth of driving age as a whole. Other studies have focused on young adults but not teenagers. This study addressed these gaps by examining the results of a survey of students at three high schools in Northern California. These results indicated that demographic factors such as race–ethnicity and parental education level, which was used as a proxy for socioeconomic status, were correlated with licensing and the age at which a license was obtained. Smartphone use, frequency of participation in after-school activities, and bicycle ownership also corresponded positively with increased licensing rates, while actual bicycle use, enjoyment of riding the bus, and ability to rely on parents for transportation corresponded with decreased licensing rates. Use of electronic communications in general was not found to correspond highly with licensing rates, and environmental concern had no significant relationship. These results suggest the need for further research to separate economic factors from other possible factors influencing licensing rates of high school students.