Traffic safety experts say young people in Washington start driving later than their peers nationally (on average) and are worse drivers for it!

The vast majority of young people still obtain driving permits by age 17, but the number who don't is increasing. Those who begin driving at age 15 of 16 has been declining steadily. The numbers plummeted at the start of the recession and are headed back to "normal" levels, but those are below the national average.

Additionally, the number of young people who wait until age 18 or later to gain a license has been on the rise since 2006.

Home income definitely is a factor. In fact, almost 45 percent of teens who delay driving say it's because they lack access to a car. More than 35 percent say they couldn't afford the gasoline if they had a car, and the process of learning to drive and obtaining the insurance and license is all outside their family budgets.

You may be thinking this is good news teens are being realistic about their financial situations. But you'd be wrong -- from a safety standpoint.

For reasons not totally clear, 16 and 17-year-old drivers are more cautious than their older peers.

Statistically, 18-20 year olds get in far more accidents. On average in Washington state, young people are less safe behind the wheel from age 17 to 24! And older teens are also far more likely to fail their driving safety tests!

Pawel Gaul