FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) – Fewer 16-year old Hoosiers are getting their driver's licenses right away. According to statistics, they're waiting until they're 18 instead.
According to reports, more than 25,000 16-year olds in Indiana received driver's licenses in 2010, but the Federal Highway Association says that number dropped to just over 3,000 in 2011.
Betti Bradtmiller, manager of Safeway Driving School in Fort Wayne, says she has seen a decrease of students in her classes, but disputes that statistics saying 900 students went through her driving school last year. Bradtmiller thinks it's more likely the statewide numbers dropped by 3,000 instead to 3,000.
In Indiana teens can obtain a permit at 15 and half years old, and get their license at 16 and half years old if they provide proof of driver's education. If they have a permit, they can obtain a license at 16 and nine months without driver’s ed. However, if teens wait until they're 18, they can bypass all of that and get a driver’s license.
Bradtmiller says getting a license doesn’t have the same rite of passage and it used to, and teens are more fearful of driving than they were before.
"Before the iPhones came out or all your handheld games, is when you were in the car you paid attention. What we're seeing now a lot of times with our students their head's been down and they're texting or whatever they're doing and they're not paying attention. And they come into Driver's Ed, for example, not very knowledgeable,” she said.
Bradtmiller says her average student is between 15 and 16-years old, but she has been seeing more 18-year olds and adults in the past few years. She says it seems students are waiting until they're more responsible or have jobs where they can afford it.
“When you consider taking Driver's Education, you're looking at the cost of Driver's Education, you're looking at a car--the cost of that. You're also looking at gas and insurance, so that is a huge factor, I believe, in the drop,” she said. “But a lot of the students that I’ve talked to when it comes to them waiting just say it doesn’t matter and that someone’s always there to take them where they need to go.”
In Indiana drivers ed can cost between $350 and $450. Bradtmiller says it cost $370 at Safeway, and according to the Indiana BMV, it's proven that teens who take driver's ed are safer drivers.
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