Why More Teens are Delaying Their Driver’s License

While many teens are hot to hop behind the wheel of a car as soon as they are legally able, others are not so keen on the idea. In fact, more and more teens appear to be delaying getting their drivers’ licenses, and the number one reason is driving fears.

According to an online survey by the car insurance search engine The Zebra, one in four unlicensed teens are holding off on getting their license because they are afraid to drive. The poll surveyed more than 600 teens across the U.S., and driving fear ranked as the top answer, with 23 percent.

The survey also asked parents why they thought their teens were delaying their driver’s license, but not as many parents believed their children were afraid. Only 12.5 percent of parents thought driving fear was the top answer, although the majority of those parents reported they were afraid of their teens driving.

The parents’ fear, the study noted, may be playing a role in their teens’ outlook on driving.

Is Driving Fear Contagious?

While driving fears weren’t specifically researched, a study published in Psychological Science suggested that fears in general are contagious. The study reported that humans can actually smell fear and disgust which, in turn, can create the same emotions in the person exposed to the odor.

The study’s research team collected underarm sweat from 10 men while they watched either horror scenes from “The Shining” or disgusting scenes from MTV’s “Jackass.” Researchers then asked 36 women to take a visual test while unknowingly being exposed to the odors.

The women exposed to the horror-movie scent opened their eyes wide in a fearful expression. Those exposed to the repulsive scenes scent scrunched up their faces in a disgusted look.

The research suggests humans can communicate some emotions by smell, and there may be others in addition to fear and disgust. That means your teen may be privy to how you really feel about him driving if he can pick up on the scent of fear, and he may then become fearful himself.

Other Factors

Whether a teen’s driving fears stem from his own perceptions or are stirred up by his parents, fear isn’t the only reason teens are delaying their driver’s license. The Zebra survey responses also included environmental concerns and the high cost associated with driving. Still other teens simply preferred to have their parents drive them around.

Fear is actually a normal response to taking on the huge responsibility of driving, although the fear dissipates for most teens once they become more comfortable behind the wheel.

Excessive driving fears that don’t decrease, or ongoing driving anxiety, can be signs of something deeper going on. Driving fears in both teens and adults may be perpetuated by an underlying anxiety disorder, making them avoid driving for months, years or even decades before they take steps to manage or overcome their anxiety.

Becoming aware of driving fears and driving anxiety is the first step, while the second step can be taking some type of action to deal with it. While driving is not an absolute necessity for some, the decision not to drive should be one made logically, and not because it’s something that’s feared.