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PennDOT sees drop in number of Pa. teen drivers - abc27 WHTM

Cumberland County

PennDOT sees drop in number of Pa. teen drivers

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CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) -

Something is happening in Pennsylvania that has many perplexed, including PennDOT. There are fewer teen drivers on the road. In fact, state numbers are at an all-time low. 

Heath Woodruff of Carlisle is 17 and only recently got his drivers license. He wanted to drive immediately, but his mom wanted his grades to improve first. Heath loves to drive.

"Just the freedom of it. Not needing to ask my parents for a ride. Not saying, 'Mom, when will you be home, I need a ride somewhere.' I can say okay, and I'm out the door," he said.

Even Heath's mom admits he's a good driver. "He's a natural driver. I felt comfortable with him behind the wheel, but he had to get his grades up," said Susan Woodruff.

It used to be the minute a teen turned 16, they were begging to drive. That is no longer the case.

When PennDOT started keeping track in 1999, there were nearly 154,000 young drivers. Over the years, the numbers have gone up and down. They hit an all time low in 2012 with only 79,000 teen drivers.

There are theories as to why teens aren't getting behind the wheel, but nothing concrete. Even PennDOT is perplexed.

"There have been no reports and no studies that indicate why there are fewer teen drivers. There are theories; teens don't need to socialize as much in person because there's so much available with social network. There are theories that they feel the test is too hard," said Jan McKnight of PennDOT.

In 2011 the requirements for a teen to get a license did become more challenging. The number of training hours went from 50 to 65. Did that have an impact?

Other theories include parents shuttling their kids everywhere and teens not wanting to pay the price. For Heath, driving is not a free ride.

"I have to pay $150 a month for the car. I have to pay for some of the gas, and I have to pay for some insurance," said Heath.

There is an upside to this. Accidents are the number one killer of teenagers, and with fewer teen drivers on the road, those numbers have gone down as well. Last year, 44 teens in Pennsylvania were killed. That's down 22 from 2011 and a significant drop from 133 teen deaths in the late 90s.

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