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Teen driving safety: Least and most dangerous states

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With car crashes being the leading cause of death for teens, and as teens nationwide start prepping and primping for their prom selfies and close-ups, CarInsurance.com is focusing on teen driver issues to develop awareness about this high-risk driver group.

Teen crash IG2An analysis of states based on safety and insurance cost factors shows that Massachusetts, Maryland and Alaska have the safest driving environment for teens, while Montana, North Dakota and Louisiana, have the worst.

CarInsurance.com also surveyed 500 parents of teen drivers to find out about their children’s driving habits. Key findings show the majority of surveyed parents (59 percent) have allowed their kids to break at least one graduated driver’s license rule, though many (64 percent) rate their teen driver’s performance as fairly scary.

But regardless of location or the amount of parental supervision, all teens should learn how to be safe drivers.

To identify the best and worst states for teen drivers, CarInsurance.com analyzed these five teen-driving metrics:

  • Number of teen driver fatalities per 100,000 population
  • Effectiveness of Graduated driving license (GDL) components
  • Teen drinking and driving rates
  • Teen emailing/texting and driving rates
  • Average annual insurance costs for teen drivers, which is a reflection of the risk level for this driving group

Each state was given a weighted score to determine rankings, with the safest states topping the list. States on the bottom of the overall ranking list fared poorly primarily because they have higher teen driver fatality rates, higher percentages of teens drinking and driving and texting/emailing while driving, as well as lax GDL laws.

Most and least safe states for teen drivers

#1 is the safest; #51 is the most dangerous.

Rank

State

 

Rank

State

1

Massachusetts

 

27

Tennessee

2

Maryland

 

28

Vermont

3

Alaska

 

29

Illinois

4

Virginia

 

30

Oregon

5

California

 

31

Arizona

6

Connecticut

 

32

Wisconsin

7

Pennsylvania

 

33

Michigan

8

Utah

 

34

New Hampshire

9

Nevada

 

35

Nebraska

10

New Jersey

 

36

Texas

11

Maine

 

37

Kansas

12

New York

 

38

New Mexico

13

Delaware

 

39

South Carolina

14

Hawaii

 

40

Florida

15

North Carolina

 

41

Iowa

16

Ohio

 

42

Arkansas

17

Indiana

 

43

Oklahoma

18

Georgia

 

44

Alabama

19

Rhode Island

 

45

Wyoming

20

Idaho

 

46

Missouri

21

Minnesota

 

47

Mississippi

22

Kentucky

 

48

South Dakota

23

District of Columbia

 

49

Louisiana

24

Washington

 

50

North Dakota

25

West Virginia

 

51

Montana

26

Colorado

 

 

Graduated license laws

Graduated licensing eases teens into driving, giving them time to mature and improve their skills in real life situations. The system has three stages:

  • A supervised learner's period, in which teens may only drive during certain periods with adequate supervision and either limits or prohibits other passengers.
  • An intermediate license (after passing a road test) that limits driving in high-risk situations except under supervision
  • A license with full privileges

The five key components of GDL include:  

  • Permit age
  • Practice driving hours required
  • License age
  • Restrictions on night driving
  • Restrictions on teen passengers

There is no standard nationwide GDL system, so laws vary by state, with some more strict than others. States with the strongest laws have the highest reductions in fatal crashes among 15- to 17-year-old drivers and the highest reductions in collisions reported to insurers among 16- to 17-year-old drivers, compared to states with weak laws, according to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) research.

Thirteen states could more than halve or nearly halve their rate of fatal crashes among 15- to 17-year-olds if they adopted the five strongest GDL provisions, according to the IIHS. The five states that could reduce teen fatal crash rates the most with more effective GDL laws are:

  • South Dakota – 63%
  • North Dakota – 56%
  • Iowa – 55%
  • Montana – 53%
  • Arkansas – 50%

To find how your state fares in terms of effective GDL laws see the map below; hover on your state to see teen driver fatalities:

Estimated percent by which fatal teen crash rates could be reduced with stricter GDL provisions

AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DC DE FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY
States that could reduce the fatal crash rate for teens by 32% or less if they adopted stricter GDL laws
States that could reduce the fatal crash rate for teens by 33% to 43% if they adopted stricter GDL laws
States that could reduce the fatal crash rate for teens by 44% or more if they adopted stricter GDL laws

Drunken driving

No one will be surprised that drunken driving leads to more accidents, which clearly makes roads less safe. Here’s how states rank on percentage of high school students age 16 and over who reported drinking and driving, according to a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Percentage of teen drivers drinking by state

State %
Montana 13%
Arkansas 12%
District of Columbia 11%
North Dakota 11%
Texas 11%
Alabama 10%
Florida 10%
Illinois 10%
New York 10%
Vermont 10%
Wyoming 10%
Arizona 9%
Colorado 9%
Connecticut 9%
Delaware 9%
Hawaii 9%
Iowa 9%
Indiana 9%
Lousiana 9%
Maryland 9%
Minnesota 9%
Missouri 9%
Mississippi 9%
New Jersey 9%
New Mexico 9%
Oklahoma 9%
Oregon 9%
Rhode Island 9%
South Carolina 9%
Washington 9%
Wisconsin 9%
California 8%
New Hampshire 8%
West Virginia 8%
Georgia 7%
Kansas 7%
Massachusetts 7%
Maine 7%
New England 7%
Nevada 7%
Pennsylvania 7%
South Dakota 7%
Tennessee 7%
Virginia 7%
Idaho 6%
Kentucky 6%
Michigan 6%
North Carolina 6%
Ohio 4%
Alaska 3%
Utah 3%

Texting and driving

Here’s how states rank on percentage of high school students age 16 and over who reported driving and texting or emailing, according to a survey conducted by the CDC. Six out of 10 teen car crashes involve driver distraction, according to research by AAA.

Percentage of teenage drivers texting and emailing by state

State %
South Dakota 61%
North Dakota 59%
Montana 56%
Wyoming 51%
Oklahoma 51%
Louisiana 49%
Arkansas 49%
Wisconsin 48%
New Hampshire 48%
New England 47%
Kansas 47%
South Carolina 46%
Ohio 46%
Missouri 46%
Illinois 45%
Alabama 45%
Texas 44%
Mississippi 44%
Washington 43%
Vermont 43%
Pennsylvania 43%
Oregon 43%
New York 43%
Minnesota 43%
Maine 43%
Indiana 43%
Idaho 43%
Iowa 43%
Hawaii 43%
District of Columbia 43%
Colorado 43%
Arizona 43%
Utah 41%
Tennessee 41%
New Mexico 40%
Michigan 40%
Delaware 40%
Rhode Island 37%
Georgia 37%
West Virginia 36%
Nevada 36%
New Jersey 36%
Kentucky 36%
Florida 36%
Connecticut 36%
Virginia 35%
North Carolina 34%
Alaska 34%
Maryland 33%
Massachusetts 32%
California 24%

Insurance costs for teens

Because teens are, naturally, young and inexperienced, they are considered high-risk drivers by insurance companies, so it costs thousands of dollars to insure them. In addition to your age, other factors come into play when insurers decide how much to charge for coverage. Chief among them are the amount and cost of claims filed in your location, your driving record and the type of car you drive. Here are how states rank from most to least expensive for yearly average teen driver rates:

Teen insurance rates
State Average State Average
MI $7,480 MD $3,599
CT $6,822 MN $3,593
DE $6,439 NM $3,550
LA $6,171 AZ $3,516
DC $5,346 UT $3,453
NJ $5,296 WV $3,376
OK $5,036 WA $3,368
FL $4,938 ND $3,264
CA $4,719 PA $3,160
RI $4,634 KS $3,132
OR $4,507 SD $3,117
TX $4,483 MO $3,079
TN $4,221 OH $3,057
WI $4,167 IL $3,032
KY $4,098 VA $2,981
NV $4,053 NH $2,972
AR $3,916 ID $2,957
CO $3,867 WY $2,940
GA $3,859 AK $2,909
AL $3,811 ME $2,847
MS $3,804 VT $2,840
IN $3,772 NE $2,739
MA $3,752 IA

$2,669

MT $3,721 NC $1,859
NY $3,625 HI $1,108
SC $3,617

Survey: Graduated license laws effective but some parents not enforcing them

Despite research showing that GDL laws are effective at keeping teens safe, not all parents are enforcing the provisions when their kids get behind the wheel. CarInsurance.com commissioned a survey of 500 parents, asking them about their teen drivers’ behavior. The following percentages of parents surveyed have allowed their teens to break these GDL provisions (respondents selected all that applied):

  • Driving friends: 33%
  • Driving at night: 30%
  • Using cellphone: 29%
  • Driving curfew: 27%
  • Driving unsupervised (if required by state): 19%
  • None: 41%

Parents also weighed in on what GDL laws they’ve caught their young drivers breaking (respondents selected all that applied):

  • Using cellphone: 45%
  • Driving friends: 33%
  • Speeding: 27%
  • Driving curfew: 27%
  • Driving at night: 24%
  • Driving unsupervised: 20%
  • Driving under the influence: 8%

While some parents, perhaps, may not be watching their teen drivers as closely as they should, most parents (64 percent) are still afraid of their children’s driving capabilities, according to the survey. Parents were asked to rank their child’s driving:

  • Not scary at all: 15%
  • Somewhat scary: 21%
  • Scary: 24%
  • Very scary: 27%
  • Extremely scary: 13%

Driving too fast and tailgating topped the list of what parents found particularly bothersome about their teen’s driving behavior when asked about the child’s worst driving habits:

  • Driving too fast: 17%
  • Following too closely: 16%
  • Blasts loud music: 9%
  • Talking or texting on cellphone: 8%
  • Driving slow in fast lane: 8%
  • Not using turn signals: 7%
  • Not coming to complete stop: 7%
  • Driving faster when another driver is trying to pass: 7%
  • Cutting off other drivers: 5%
  • Distracted by passengers: 5%
  • Weaving between lanes: 3%
  • Eating while driving: 2 %

 

Methodology:

For overall ranking, each state was scored from 1 to 5 (1, poor, 2 fair, 3 good, 4 very good, 5 excellent) on each metric. Metrics were weighted as follows: Insurance cost – 10%; Fatal teen crashes – 30%; Leniency of GDL laws – 20%; Teen drinking and driving – 20%; Teen texting and emailing – 20%. Data shown for individual metrics is ranked by raw number. Survey: CarInsurance.com commissioned an online survey of 500 parents with teen drivers. The survey, conducted by Op4g,  was fielded in March 2016.

Sources:

Car insurance rates: CarInsurance.com commissioned rates from Quadrant Information Services for six major carriers in 10 ZIP codes in each state for coverage of 100/300/100 with a $500 deductible for ages 16, 17, 18 and 19.

Fatal crashes: Teen driver fatalities from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association statistics report “Fatalities in Crashes Involving a Young Driver (Ages 15 – 20) by State and Fatality Type; 2014 Fatality Analysis Reporting System” were divided by the 2014 state population. The result was multiplied by 100,000 to get a rate per 100,000 population.

Graduated Driver License specifications and effective licensing provisions: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/Highway Loss Data Institute; Governor’s Highway Safety Association. GDL laws scored on estimated  percent reduction of teen fatal crash rate if stricter laws in place.

High school teens drinking and driving: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2013.

High school teens texting or emailing while driving: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2013.

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1 Responses to "Teen driving safety: Least and most dangerous states"
  1. jetcityjewel

    Unless I missed it I didn't see any mention of access to driver instruction in the teen years. In our state it is mandatory (Washington) to even be able to access the benefits of GDL to "practice" at driving. But at 18 you take the test and get a license with or without professional driver's ed, which used to be something done in schools. It has since been dropped by most schools - budget cuts/liability being most often cited as reasons. But it was a program that targeted the group needing it most efficiently and effectively. No it may not be the core purpose of schools but it certainly was a lot more effective than what we have now. Now unless your parents can drop nearly $1,000 on driver's ed you wait until you are 18, a parent takes you driving here or there, maybe some practice in parking lots and then you are on the road.

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