Driving

Teen driving statistics and the most dangerous states for teen drivers

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While the roads can be a dangerous place for all drivers, teens bear the highest risk of road-related accidents. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States, resulting in over one-third of all deaths. What’s more, 40% of teens think driving is scary, which could mean they do not have the confidence to properly handle stressful or complex driving situations. That said, some states are more dangerous than others when evaluating teen risk while driving. 

Read on to learn some of the must-know teen driving statistics and tips to keep teen drivers safe on the road.

Teen driving statistics

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and disability among teens in the U.S. The statistics below indicate that risky driving behaviors like speeding, distracted driving and not wearing a seatbelt could put teens in more danger when getting behind the wheel. 

Before handing them a set of car keys, discuss these statistics with your teen to highlight the importance of safe and responsible driving.

A total of 2,375 teenagers ages 13-19 died in motor vehicle crashes in 2019. (NHTSA)

 

1. Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly 3x more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers aged 20 and older. (CDC) 

2. The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16 to 19-year-olds than among any other age group. (Teen Driver Source) 

3. A total of 2,375 teenagers ages 13 to 19 died in motor vehicle crashes in 2019. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute) 

4. Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and allow shorter headways (the distance from the front of one vehicle to the front of the next). (CDC) 

5. The overwhelming majority (75%) of serious teen driver crashes are due to "critical errors," with three common errors accounting for nearly half of these crashes: lack of scanning to detect and respond to hazards, going too fast for road conditions and being distracted by something inside or outside of the vehicle.  (Teen Driver Source)

6. Speeding was a factor in 28% of all fatal crashes that involved teen drivers. (NHTSA)

7. 43% of high school students admit to not always wearing a seatbelt. (CDC) 

8. 17% of high school students reported riding with a drinking driver.  (CDC) 

9. 39% of teens have texted or emailed while driving. (CDC) 

10. 16% of 15- to 18-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2018 had been drinking alcohol. (NHTSA)

Speeding was a factor in 28% of all fatal crashes that involved teen drivers. (NHTSA).

Most dangerous states for teen drivers

While there is a level of risk associated with driving each time you get behind the wheel, we found that Michigan, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Colorado and Florida are the most dangerous states for teen drivers. 

To uncover which state is the most dangerous for teen drivers, we analyzed teen driving data from the NHTSA, Census Bureau, and FBI, as well as the average teen insurance rates by state. Here are a few key findings from our analysis: 

  • Michigan is the most dangerous state for teen drivers and has the third-highest monthly insurance premium for teens in the country. Conversely, Hawaii is the safest state for teen driving. 
  • Wyoming has the highest rate of teen motor fatalities and one of the lowest rates of reported seat belt usage in the U.S. 
  • South Dakota has the highest rate of underage DUI arrests for those under 18 years old.

 

1. Michigan 

Michigan is the frontrunner for the most dangerous place for teen drivers — and with its high teen insurance premiums, DUI rate and motor fatality rate, it’s not hard to conclude why. Michigan also has the lowest minimum entry age for drivers, at only 14 years old. These factors are likely behind the reason Michigan has the third most costly insurance premium for teens in the country, with an average of $583/month.

 

2. Rhode Island

Despite the state’s strict requirements for teens to fully operate a motor vehicle, Rhode Island ranks second on the list of most dangerous states for teen driving. Teens must be at least 17.5 years old, hold a provisional license for at least 12 months, and not have obtained a moving or seatbelt violation in the last 6 months in order to acquire a full operator’s license.

While Rhode Island’s multi-stage licensing processes allow teens to gain exposure to driving over a longer period of time, the state still has the highest monthly insurance premium for teens in the country, averaging $713. 

 

3. Louisiana 

Louisiana is known for its diverse culture, nightlife, and, unfortunately, lower seat belt usage. In a survey conducted by the National Highway Safety Administration, only 87.5% of Louisianians reported wearing their seat belt in the car, which is lower than the national seatbelt rate. Louisiana also has a higher motor fatality rate among teens compared to other states, ranking within the top 15 in the country.

 

4. Colorado 

Colorado comes in fourth among the most dangerous states for teen drivers. Although the state has initiated a driving curfew for teens for their first year of driving to eliminate nighttime driving (no driving between midnight and 5 a.m., unless accompanied by a guardian or instructor), it still has one of the highest DUI rates for teens in the country.

 

5. Florida 

Florida is the fifth most dangerous state for teen drivers, and over 10% of the state’s population admits to not wearing a seatbelt. While distracted driving continues to be a problem for young adults, Florida does not ban cell phone use for its teen drivers. Florida had 238 motor vehicle fatalities among teens, just behind California and Texas, which had the highest number of total teen deaths from motor vehicle incidents in 2018. 

States with the most car crash fatalities for teens

The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among teens aged 16–19 than among any other age group. What’s more, is that males have almost a 2x higher death rate compared to female drivers. 

So what factors put teens most at risk? Driving inexperience, not using a seatbelt, distracted driving, alcohol use, and speeding all contribute to the number of motor fatalities among the teen driving population. Below, we’ve listed the top 10 states with the highest motor fatality rate for teens.

StateMotor fatalities among teensMotor fatality rate per 100,000 teens

Wyoming

1240.2
South Dakota

17

36.8
Mississippi5836.3
Montana1835.3
Alabama8132.8
South Carolina8032
Arkansas4931
Idaho3029
Missouri8527.3
Kansas4227

Where is the highest rate of underage DUIs?

Alcohol-related traffic fatalities are decreasing on a national level. This change could be attributed to effective drunk driving laws, sobriety checkpoints, education, and convenient rideshare options for individuals under the influence. 

Despite efforts to minimize drinking and driving, some states still maintain high DUI rates for teens. We discovered the top 10 states with the highest teen DUI arrests below.

StateUnderage DUI arrestsUnderage DUI arrest rate per 100,000 teens
South Dakota60130
Wyoming36120.6
Montana56110
Idaho8279
Wisconsin 22676.4
Colorado19768
Utah13966.3
North Dakota2366
Alaska2258
Vermont1554.5

How teens can reduce their risk on the road

Although teen drivers have a higher risk of car accidents and fatalities, there are a number of proven methods that teens can practice to protect themselves on the road.

 

  • Educate yourself on driving risks: Before you get behind the wheel, make sure you familiarize yourself with the risks associated with teen driving. Thoroughly understanding the risks and the rules of the road can help reduce your chances of being involved in a fatal car accident. 
  • Wear your seatbelt: In fatal crashes among 16- to 20-year-olds, 60 percent were unbuckled at the time of the crash. Remember that seatbelts save lives, so be sure to buckle up before taking off. 
  • Do not drink and drive: The legal blood alcohol level for teens is zero. Before getting behind the wheel or climbing in a car with others, make sure no one is driving under the influence. Drinking and driving is illegal, and alcohol-related incidents contribute to 16% of fatal teen accidents. Ride sharing can be a safe method of transportation if you are unsure about your or your driver’s sobriety. 
  • Limit distractions: Limiting distractions while driving can help you focus on the road and any complex driving situations that may arise. To limit distractions, consider placing your phone out of reach and driving with fewer passengers in your car. 
  • Go the speed limit: Speeding was a factor in 28% of fatal teen car accidents. A simple way to limit your risk is to drive the legal speed limit. 

Practicing risky behaviors while driving can have serious and even deadly consequences. If you take on the responsibility of driving, be sure to do it safely to protect yourself and others on the road. 

Methodology

To uncover the most dangerous states for teen drivers, The Zebra analyzed various driving risk factors, which included the latest data on teen fatality rates, teen DUI arrests, statewide seatbelt usage, and the average monthly insurance rates for teens in each state. 

After weighing each factor equally, we added each of the data points listed above to generate a risk score for every state. We concluded that states with a higher risk score were associated with more danger for teen drivers. 

Additional sources: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | FBI | National Highway Traffic Safety Administration | U.S. Census BureauNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration | Teen Driver Source

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