Why is Gen Z Not Driving?


Christina Ayoub and Mia Mercado

Becoming legally able to drive is something that so many kids wait for; at least, that’s what we thought. But what is going on in reality? It’s what some teenagers consider as a sign of their independence. While some kids can’t wait to get their licenses, others heavily delay the process. We created a Google Form sent out to seniors, juniors, sophomores, and first-year students. We asked questions like “Will you get your driver’s license when you turn 16” and “Do you have your driver’s license” as well as why students do not have their driver’s licenses or can’t get their driver’s licenses. 

Personal Reasons:

In the eyes of many parents, driving is considered more of a privilege than a right, and because of this, students might not be able to get their licenses because of having strict parents. Parents could be worried about giving their kids that ability and that control over where they go. They could also be more concerned for their kids’ safety while driving, making them prefer to be behind the wheel. 


“Driving a car was once a widely covered rite of passage, but a rising number of kids no longer see it that way: 60 percent of American 18-year-olds had a driver’s license in 2021, down from 80 percent in 1983, according to data from the Federal Highway Administration. In addition, 16-year-olds with licenses dropped from 46 percent to 25 percent in that same period. As a result, today’s driving-age teens are navigating a very different world, filled with new complexities and anxieties.”


Driving is a terrifying experience with many different possibilities of right and wrong. Going out and going for a drive is a lot other now than it was for our parents. Cars, people, and the environment have drastically changed in the last century. More and more freeways are being built with less open space, causing more traffic. An article stated, “And our kids don’t always get the luxury of learning to drive out on big, open highways with only handfuls of cars around as we did back in the day.” It’s a lot better to drive now than any time; a positive change for once.

A lot of mental battles are one of the reasons why driving rates have gone down in teens. Fear and anxiety are components to so something many teenagers struggle with. It could be a cause of trauma or the fear others have put on them.

According to MedicalNewsToday, “Fear or phobia of driving a vehicle may cause a person to feel driving anxiety. It can result in significant distress and impact someone’s everyday life. A person may experience emotional distress while driving and avoid certain situations on the road or driving in general.” It’s a recurring struggle that many kids don’t want to go through.

Some kids don’t have an excuse; they are simply too lazy to go through the work to drive and work for their license. The process can be a lot, especially getting your permit, going through driver’s ed, and studying for the test, but it’s a hustle you work for. They don’t see the reward in driving and get it later in life.


Financial Reasons:

The financial reason for not getting a car stops many kids from driving. In addition, it leads to them not getting their permit and license due to not seeing sense.

Cars are the second most expensive purchase you make in your life. Some Families can’t even afford one car, let alone two. Bus transportation is a better alternative for most.

Even when there is a loophole, saving up for your car, it’s not just the car you are paying for. There are so many financial costs that come along with a vehicle. So some teens and their families shouldn’t invest.

Insurance and Lessons:

Another reason why kids may not be able to drive as soon as they are legal is insurance. A large number of people cannot afford insurance. Therefore they aren’t able to allow their kids to drive. An estimated 1 million Californians are uninsured and only eligible for low-cost or no-cost coverage (CA.gov). Also, according to Bankrate, “Full coverage car insurance costs an average of $2,291 per year in California. The average cost for state minimum coverage is $636 per year. Nationally, full coverage costs $2,014, and minimum coverage costs $622 on average per year, so California is an expensive place to buy insurance”. 

Students driving in more populated areas also tend to have higher insurance rates, which means they pay a higher percentage. However, insurance can also be a reason kids can’t drive because the costs for vehicle repairs, parts, and medical expenses can also impact how much drivers in a given city pay for coverage” (Bankrate).

Parents can also save money by excluding drivers from their car insurance plans. Of course, this would mean that the new driver would be on the road without insurance; in that case, it’s better not to drive at all. Inland Empire Law Group states, “The most common reason people opt to exclude drivers is to save money on their car insurance. California law requires good 20 percent or more driver discounts for drivers with no accidents during the past three years”. 

Also, according to Maison Law, “In California, high schools offer free driver ed. Driver Ed at a driving school can cost teens $40-$60. Driver ed may be free if the teen purchases a driving training package. These packages may range from $350-$650”. Depending on how a driver learns to drive, this can also cost too much for the parents. 

We surveyed various students from Santiago High School and got these results.

When students 16 and over got asked, “Do you have your driver’s license” the results were split in half. We then asked the students 17 and older if they had their licenses; 33% said no, and 67% said yes.

When the students older than 16 were asked whether or not they had their license, 88.8% said yes, and 11.2% said no (minus the 99 students that said they were currently in the process of getting it. Out of the 18-year-olds that were surveyed, only 17.3% didn’t already have their driver’s licenses.

Many students have reasons that they can’t get their license, while also many challenges not allowing them to. Whether it’s their parents, their laziness, or financial situations, there are multiple different reasons why a child might not be able to get their license when they are legal.