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Baby, You Can Drive My Car (Please)

Photograph by Getty Images

I remember how excited I was to get my driver’s licence. On my 16th birthday my dad drove me to the DMV to take my test. I passed with flying colors, of course, because I’d been practicing every chance I got. That same night, brand new licence in hand, I picked up my friends, and we drove around until the wee hours. No one—not even the parents of my passengers on this maiden voyage—seemed concerned in the least bit. “Oh, you’ve only been driving legally for three hours? Here, let me put my kids, the most precious things in the world, right into that car with you.”

Luckily, that same scenario won’t be played out anytime soon with my own legal-to-drive daughter, and for once it’s not because my paranoid nature is stopping the process. Here’s the thing: She has no desire whatsoever to get her licence. None. Nada. When my husband and I even bring up the subject, we’re met with a variety of responses from indifference to distress, like we’d just asked her to shut down her Instagram account.

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And it’s not just her. From what she tells me, not many of her friends are driving, either; they’re very content, thank you, to get around using the subway, buses and—most importantly—their parents’ driving skills. I guess that night many years ago, my 16-year-old self was actually in training for driving carloads of teenagers around.

I’ve heard the same thing from other parents with teens, too. At a recent dinner, a friend called it an “epidemic” and said she was trying to figure out how to force her sons to start driving themselves to baseball practice. We agreed that extreme measures were necessary. Only driving carpool while wearing a bathrobe and singing loudly along to Prince will have those kids clawing to get out of our cars and into the DMV line in no time.

It’s hard to post a status update or shoot a Vine video when you’re behind the wheel of a car.

Nationwide statistics reflect this trend, too. Studies say the number of teen drivers has been decreasing steadily since 2003, and they cite a variety of factors, from stricter driving laws regulating teens (by the current rules I would have had to wait a full year before chauffeuring my friends around) to the expense associated with driver training (no more free classes in high school). But one of the more likely reasons is this: teens and their love of computers and social media. Who needs to drive to see your friends at the bowling alley when you can chat via Skype, or see what they’re up to via Facebook and Twitter? Also, it’s hard to post a status update or shoot a Vine video when you’re behind the wheel of a car.

But this late-driving trend has its benefits. Not having to worry about our teen out on the harrowing streets of Los Angeles is fine with me, and the cost of insurance and another car care expenses we can do without. She’ll be an older and more mature driver by the time she does finally hit the road, and (fingers crossed) will be able to contribute to the costs financially.

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And the truth is I will actually miss driving my kids around. I’ve been doing it for 17 years, seeing their little faces peeking out at me from the backseat and hearing their chatter when I pick them up from school. I’ll miss seeing where they’re going when I drop them off, and hearing about what they did when I pick them up. Maybe they’ll still let me drive them around once in a while even after they’ve gotten their licenses. Think they’ll mind the bathrobe and me singing along to "Little Red Corvette"?

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