New AAA research shows uptick in the number of young drivers, including in Idaho

BOISE – (October 22, 2019) – An improved economy might be the reason more teens are getting their driver’s license at an earlier age, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s latest research.

When AAA studied the issue in 2012, many teens were putting off getting a license, possibly due to the lingering effects of the Great Recession, when employment opportunities and transportation options were more limited.  But since that time, there’s been an 11 percent increase in the number of young drivers who received their license before the age of 18 – a clear trend in the opposite direction.

According to the Idaho Transportation Department, the number of licensed drivers ages 15 to 19 jumped by more than eight percent from 2016 to 2017, the most recent year on record.  Overall, there are about 71,000 teens driving on Idaho roads.

“It’s great that so many of our teens value the freedom and privilege of driving, and that more of them recognize the importance of completing a driver education course,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde.  “As we help teens overcome inexperience, they can have a long and successful driving career.”

Based on AAA’s research, young people who live in rural areas are more likely to get a driver’s license at an earlier age than their urban counterparts, possibly out of the need to travel greater distances.  The timing of licensure was also closely associated with other factors like family income and educational background.  Nearly 41 percent of young drivers ages 18 to 24 in 2019 obtained their license at or before the age of 16, and 60 percent did so before age 18.

As part of National Teen Driver Safety Week, AAA reminds families that Idaho teen drivers are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal or injury collision as older motorists.  While they represent just six percent of licensed drivers, they also account for more than 12 percent of the fatal and injury crashes that occur in the Gem State.

“Thankfully, there were 300 fewer fatal and injury crashes involving teens in 2017 than in the previous year, but we have a long way to go before we reach our goal of zero,” Conde said.

The top three traffic violations for Idaho teen drivers are speeding, failing to stop at stop signs and signals, and tailgating.


Getting pulled over

AAA, ITD and the Boise Police Department recently produced a video to help teens prepare for a traffic stop, which will soon be shared across the state and includes the following tips:

  • Step 1: Pulling Over
    • Communicate to the officer that you see them, and that you are pulling over
    • Pull over in a safe location, out of traffic
    • Put the vehicle in Park, roll your window down, and turn the volume down
    • Keep your seatbelt fastened
  • Step 2: The Officer Approaches
    • The officer will appreciate it if you sit patiently, with both hands clearly visible
  • Step 3: Conversation with the Officer
    • Follow the officer’s instructions
    • Provide information as requested
    • As with most situations, it pays to be polite!


READ the road

AAA Driver Training offers the following acronym to help teens READ the road effectively:

  • Right speed, for right now
  • Eyes up, brain on
  • Anticipate other drivers’ next move
  • Donut of space around your vehicle

“Parents have got to stay involved in the driver education process, even after their teen receives a license,” Conde said.  “Their wisdom, experience and sincere interest could help prevent a tragedy.”