Car crashes continue to be the leading killer of teenagers. Beyond that sobering fact, accidents involving younger drivers have economic fallout, including raising auto insurance premiums for their parents.
That's the focus of a new study by WalletHub, a personal finance website. In its report, "2014's Best and Worst States for Teen Drivers," WalletHub relies on government figures showing that 16- to 19-year-olds have the highest crash rate of any group, with the numbers climbing during the peak motoring months in summer.
WalletHub, projecting that there are an average of 260 teen driving deaths nationwide each month, says that "the financial implications of those statistics are staggering." The accidents and their repercussions result in higher health care costs, as well as costly insurance premiums and increased car repair and maintenance bills, according to the report.
"Although young people aged 15 to 24 represent only 14 percent of the population, they account for about 30 percent of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries," the study notes.
WalletHub says it analyzed several factors to develop a profile of each state. It evaluated the number of teen drivers in each state (and fatalities linked to them), driving laws affecting teens in those states, and costs, including state car insurance rates and vehicle repairs. Here are the 10 "best states for teen drivers," followed by the 10 worst, according to the report:
The top 10 best states for teen drivers
- New York
- Rhode Island
The worst 10 states for teen drivers
- South Dakota
- Tied -- Missouri and South Carolina
The report notes that Indiana, Kentucky, New Mexico and North Dakota had the most reported teen deaths per licensed teen drivers. Utah, Delaware, Connecticut and Vermont had the fewest. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which uses statistics gathered from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other federal sources, says that seven teens died every day on U.S. roads in 2010.
As for drunken driving, New Mexico, Indiana and Colorado had the most reported teen violations per licensed teen drivers. Alabama, Illinois and Ohio had the fewest, according to WalletHub.
Car repair costs after a crash
The report also looked at the cost for car repairs following an accident, which can spur a rise in insurance premiums. Fixing a vehicle costs the most in New Jersey, California, North Carolina and Maryland. Garage and body shop expenses were the lowest in Vermont, West Virginia, South Dakota and Delaware.
Which states have the highest percentage of its teen population with driver's licenses? That would be Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas. The lowest are Indiana, New Mexico and New York.
The study offers other details, including:
- The car insurance premium jumps six times more in Arkansas than Hawaii after adding a teen to a policy.
- In New Jersey, the average cost of car repairs is 1.5 times higher than in Vermont.
- The percentage of the teen population with driver's licenses is 19 times higher in Iowa than in Indiana.
- There are 33 times more teen driver deaths per licensed teen drivers in Indiana than in Utah.
- The percentage of major roads that are in "poor or mediocre condition" is six times higher in Connecticut than in Idaho.
Protecting your teens -- and saving money if rates soar when insuring them
Teenage drivers are costly to insure because of the obvious safety concerns. But there are a few things you can do to help them be more conscientious motorists and also lower your rates.
First off, get your teen a vehicle with safety features and good safety ratings from groups like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Lynne McChristian, a spokesperson for the Florida branch of the Insurance Information Institute, says insurers are likely to take that into consideration when determining a base coverage rate.
McChristian has a few other suggestions to grab car insurance discounts offered by most companies:
- Have your teen take a driving course. Young drivers who pass accredited classes can qualify for discounts of up to 5 percent. McChristian notes that many insurers accept online courses as well as those in the classroom.
- Sign a "parent-teen driving contract" with your kid. In the contract, the teen promises not to text while driving, drive at night or with friends in the car. Many insurers will give a small discount of less than 5 percent with proof of the contract.
- Get credit for your teenager's good grades. McChristian says students with at least a "B" average usually qualify for discounts, which can reach 5 or 10 percent.
Another way to cut premiums is by raising the deductible from $250 to $500 or even $1,000. But, of course, you'll have to pay that higher deductible if the car is damaged.