More than 60 percent of teens 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 percent increase since 2012.

The new report reveals a changing trend in teen licensure from when the Foundation first evaluated the issue in 2012. At that time 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 Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “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.”

According to the study, nationally 40.8 percent of 18-24-year-olds got their license at or before age 16 and 60.3 percent got their license before the age of 18. Other findings reveal:

  • Only half (49.8 percent) of teens in large cities obtain their license before the age of 18, compared with nearly two-thirds of those in less urbanized areas.
  • Teens living in the Midwest tend to be licensed at younger ages — 55 percent at or before age 16 and 70 percent before age 18. While only one-third (32.2 percent) of teens living in the West and fewer than a quarter (22.3 percent) of teens in the Northeast reported getting their license at or before age 16, only 56 percent (Northeast) and 48 percent (West) did so before age 18.

Previous research by the AAA Foundation has revealed that new teen drivers ages 16-17 years old are three times as likely as adults to be involved in a deadly crash. All states have graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems for teen drivers ages 16 and 17 to help them 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 Jennifer Ryan, AAA Director of State Relations. “Past trends of waiting until you turn 18 to be licensed was a cause for concern. Many of these young drivers were getting behind the wheel with minimal knowledge or support, putting themselves and others at risk.”

A previous AAA Foundation study 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.