Unlicensed driving among California high school seniors

  • Katherine E. Heck 4-H Center for Youth Development, UC Davis
  • Carla Sousa UC Cooperative Extension
  • Christian L. Hanna Michigan Public Health Institute
  • Keith Nathaniel UC Cooperative Extension


The driving behaviors and characteristics of unlicensed teenage drivers have been little explored. For this study of behaviors of unlicensed California teen drivers, 2,144 high school seniors at 13 school sites in California completed a written survey. Unlicensed driving was ascertained by combining survey questions about licensing and driving. Data were analyzed to examine characteristics of unlicensed drivers compared with licensed drivers, and to examine risk behaviors among the unlicensed drivers. A total of 12.4 percent (n = 265) of students reported driving a motor vehicle without a driver’s license or permit, while two-thirds of surveyed students had either a license or a permit, and the remainder did not drive. Unlicensed drivers were primarily male (56 percent) and Latino (67 percent); unlicensed drivers were more likely than others to attend a school with a lower-income population. Licensed and unlicensed drivers reported similar rates of driving after alcohol or other drug use. Licensed drivers were more likely than unlicensed drivers to report having been in a crash, but this difference was no longer significant after adjustment for risk behaviors. Unlicensed driving was fairly common in this sample, but did not appear to represent an excess risk relative to licensed drivers.
How to Cite
Heck, K. E., Sousa, C., Hanna, C. L., & Nathaniel, K. (2008). Unlicensed driving among California high school seniors. Californian Journal of Health Promotion, 6(2), 36-48. https://doi.org/10.32398/cjhp.v6i2.1307