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Leslie Gamble
Manager, Public & Government Affairs
O: (405) 753-8040
C: (405) 488-7611

Mark Madeja
Senior Specialist, Public & Government Affairs
O: (918) 748-1074
C: (918) 935-9318

Schedule an interview with Leslie Gamble (OKC) at (405) 488-7611 or Mark Madeja (Tulsa) at (918) 748-1074.


•             A new AAA Foundation study finds that more than 60% of teen drivers on the road today got their licenses on or before age 16, but these younger teen drivers are subject to more requirements and restrictions than their older peers.

 •            Younger teens ages 16-17 are subject to graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs that help them gradually learn the rules of the road under less risky conditions.

 •            Earlier AAA Foundation research also found that drivers first licensed at age 18 are more likely to be involved in a crash resulting in injuries during their first year of solo driving than new drivers licensed at any other age.

Trend Reversed: More Teens Getting Driver’s Licenses at 16, Benefiting from Graduated Requirements

It’s National Teen Driver Safety Week (10/20-24)

October 25, 2019— More than 60% of teens on the road today got their driver’s license before the age of 18, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. That’s an 11% increase since 2012. That’s good news as - unlike their 18 year old peers - these younger teens are subject to graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs that help them to gradually learn the rules of the road under less risky conditions.

“The fact that more teens are starting to drive at an age when they can gradually learn the necessary skills to be safe behind the wheel is great news for all drivers,” said Leslie Gamble, public and government affairs manager, AAA Oklahoma. “Past trends of waiting until age 18 to be licensed have been a cause for concern.  More young drivers were getting behind the wheel without the learning curve provided by learner’s permits and restrictions on number of passengers in the vehicle.”

National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 20-26) helps to remind parents to have conversations with their teens about the important rules they need to follow to stay safe behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. The greatest dangers to teen drivers include alcohol, inconsistent or no seat belt use, distracted and drowsy driving, speeding and number of passengers.

New trend in teen licensure

The new AAA report reveals a changing trend in teen licensure since the Foundation first began evaluating the issue in 2012. At the time, the country was just emerging from a recession and many young people cited their family’s inability to afford the high cost of driving as a reason why they did not obtain their license sooner.

“The trend for teens to acquire their driver’s license has changed over the past 10 years,” said Gamble. “Many are getting licensed before the age of 18, which means more of Generation Z is learning to drive under the protection of state graduated driver licensing programs and parental supervision.”

The new AAA Foundation study surveyed young adults ages 18-24 to determine when they obtained their license and found that nationally, 40.8% got their license at or before age 16 and 60.3% got their license before the age of 18. Teens living in rural areas and those in the Midwest were more likely to get their licenses under the age of 18 than teens in other areas.

Teens more likely to be in serious crashes

Vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for teens in the state, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The need for teens to gradually learn skills necessary for driving is supported by previous AAA Foundation research, which found that for every mile driven, new teen drivers ages 16-17 years old are three times as likely as adults to be involved in a deadly crash.

But earlier AAA Foundation research also found that drivers first licensed at age 18 are more likely to be involved in a crash resulting in injuries during their first year of solo driving than new drivers licensed at any other age, a statistic that supports the effectives of GDL programs for younger teen drivers.

Overall, nearly 28% of the young adults in the latest AAA Foundation survey reported waiting until they were 18 or older to get their license. Reasons young adults cited for delaying licensure included:

•             Nervous about driving (68.4%)

•             They could do everything they needed without driving (52.6%)

•             Driving was too expensive (33.3%)

•             Too busy to get a license (28.9%)

•             Family members did not have time to help them get their license (20.5%)

“It is imperative that all new drivers practice driving with a skilled coach through a variety of routes and in different weather conditions before heading out on their own,” said Gamble. “Novice drivers shouldn’t drive in the rain or on the freeway for the first time without an adult present.”

Practicing safety first

AAA stresses the importance for drivers of all ages, including teens, to buckle up when behind the wheel or riding as a passenger. Seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45% and cut the risk of serious injury by 50%, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data. Oklahoma is the only state in the nation without a law requiring teens (and others 8 and up) to be buckled up in the back seat in vehicles. AAA and other state traffic safety advocates are encouraging lawmakers to include all minors in the protection of seat belt wear in back seats during the 2020 legislative session.

Distracted driving is also a deadly problem for drivers of all ages, so reminding teens not to drive distracted lays the foundation for a lifetime of safe driving. Teens can be distracted by personal communication devices as well as passengers, vehicle audio systems and advanced vehicle technologies found in newer vehicles. Teens and their parents can take the pledge to, “Don’t drive intoxicated, don’t drive intexticated” online at

By setting parameters, new drivers can greatly minimize their risk of a crash. AAA recommends that regardless of their age when first learning to drive, new drivers should remember to “R.E.A.D the road”:

•             R = Right speed, for right now: Always mind the speed limit and reduce your speed when traveling in adverse weather conditions.

•             E = Eyes up, brain on: Always scan the road to anticipate dangers ahead.  Eliminate distractions and keep your mind focused on the task of driving.

•             A = Anticipate their next move: Be aware of other drivers on the road. Anticipate their next move and always have a plan to respond.

•             D = Huge DONUT of space around your vehicle: Keep large amounts of space to the front and sides of your vehicle. has a variety of tools to help prepare parents and teach new drivers the rules of the road. The online AAA StartSmart program also offers great resources for parents on how to become effective in-car coaches as well as advice on how to manage their teen’s overall driving privileges. Novice drivers preparing for the responsibility of driving alone should enroll in a driver education program that teaches how to avoid driver distraction and other safety skills.

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