Maria Carrillo High School seniors Jeffrey Chen and Emma Doolittle were born on the same day in January, but only one of their 16th birthdays came along with a traditional rite of passage: getting a driver's licenses. While Doolittle got her license "the day (she) turned 16," Chen has yet to get his, reflecting a new trend among teenagers.

Advances in technology and increasing competitiveness in school may be challenging the tradition of teens getting their licenses close to their 16th birthdays. According to a study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, the percentage of 16-year-olds with driver's licenses dropped from 46 percent to 31percent between 1983 and 2008.

"I just haven't had the time (to get my license) because I've been busy with school," said Chen, who turned 18 in January. Being a legal adult allows him to take the driver's test without having a learner's permit or having to take driver's education classes, required for minors in California between the ages of 15? to 17?.

Furthermore, the cost of such classes can be an inconvenience to some students, especially given the current state of the economy. Doolittle, noted that "it was annoying to have to pay $400 to $500 for classes and lessons, especially since we don't have a (driver's education) class here. It's expensive to get it when you're 16 as opposed to when you're 18."

However, Doolittle also notes that getting her license early allowed her to have "more years of experience with (her) parents helping" her when driving, as well as allowed her to fulfill her provisional license year before other classmates.

For senior Paige Hile, her lack of license stems from a more personal reason. "I don't feel safe out on the road due to young people's recklessness and lack of focus," Hile said. However, Hile planned on getting her license during the summer.

Despite the national trend of fewer teenagers getting their licenses, at Maria Carrillo there seems to be a larger majority of students having their licenses.

Of the 89 juniors and seniors surveyed, 62 students had received their licenses and 51 of those students drive frequently. Only 14 out of the 89 did not have their licenses, and 6 had their learner's permits.

Even so, Chen has no regrets over learning to drive later, noting that it hasn't been "a big inconvenience" and that it hasn't been a "big thing when you're the only one of your friends without a license."

Senior Greg Forrest echoes Chen's sentiments. Forrest waited until January of his junior year to get his permit, which didn't allow him to get his license until the summer before starting senior year, but not having it was not a major problem. Before, he was able to get rides from family members. The only thing that has changed is that "I don't have to ask for rides anymore," Forrest said.

Chen also credits more maturity as a benefit of getting his license later. "I think when teenagers are older, they're in more control and have more confidence in their driving than if they're .<TH>.<TH>. just 15?."

"A license can help," said junior Isaac Perez, "but it's definitely not .<TH>.<TH>. necessary."

Republished from Maria Carrillo's Puma Prensa student newspaper.