2014’s Best and Worst States for Teen Drivers

by John S Kiernan

WH-2014-Best-and-Worst-States-for-Teen-DriversIn American culture, getting a driver’s license at 16 is considered a rite of passage. But lately, it has grown from an exciting stage of growth to a death sentence for thousands of teens every year. Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 16 and 19 — they have the highest crash rate of any age group.

In addition, the financial implications of those statistics are staggering. 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. That’s not counting auto maintenance, high insurance premiums, possible traffic citations and other vehicular incidents that can rack up expensive costs over time.

Looking ahead at the summer season, it is prudent to reflect on the fact that more teens will be obtaining their licenses during this time, when an average of 260 teens are killed in car accidents each month. More than ever, it is imperative to take precautionary measures to ensure teens’ safety behind the wheel.

Using 16 key metrics, WalletHub has identified the Best & Worst States for Teen Drivers. We took a close examination of various elements — ranging from the average cost of car repairs and the number of teen drivers in each state to impaired-driving laws and teen driver fatalities. By doing so, we aim to equip parents and other concerned adults with facts that will help them safeguard against unforeseeable events when their teens are on the road. After all, parents are the ones to shoulder both the emotional and financial burdens of their children’s actions. Check out the Methodology section below for more detailed information on how we ranked each state.

Main Findings


Overall Rank

State Name

Safety Conditions Rank

Economic Environment Rank

Driving Laws Rank

1 New York 2 7 1
2 Hawaii 1 12 14
3 Illinois 9 10 1
4 Oregon 3 27 3
5 Rhode Island 4 38 6
6 Massachusetts 6 12 28
7 Maryland 8 25 9
8 Delaware 15 2 24
9 Washington 13 36 3
10 Nevada 5 20 24
11 California 10 39 11
12 New Jersey 12 46 6
13 North Carolina 25 16 6
14 Michigan 22 4 28
15 Kentucky 16 24 18
16 Virginia 10 40 24
17 Kansas 30 6 18
18 New Mexico 28 5 30
19 Texas 23 8 36
20 Georgia 16 48 12
21 Alaska 20 43 18
22 Tennessee 34 28 9
23 West Virginia 36 11 18
24 Connecticut 7 31 40
25 Louisiana 30 45 5
26 Indiana 33 32 14
27 Minnesota 32 19 18
28 Wisconsin 34 17 18
29 Maine 40 29 14
30 Colorado 39 35 13
31 Vermont 18 15 40
32 New Hampshire 27 30 32
33 Ohio 19 21 39
34 Florida 14 34 38
35 Pennsylvania 20 48 24
36 Utah 26 47 17
37 Idaho 29 41 32
38 Iowa 42 3 43
39 Alabama 37 42 31
40 North Dakota 49 9 32
41 Arizona 23 44 43
T-42 Missouri 37 23 43
T-42 South Carolina 44 32 37
44 Montana 41 21 43
45 Arkansas 43 50 32
46 Wyoming 46 37 40
47 Oklahoma 50 18 43
48 Nebraska 47 14 48
49 Mississippi 45 26 49
50 South Dakota 48 1 50


Ask the Experts: Teen Driver FAQ

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Garry Lapidus

Director of the Injury Prevention Center, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center; Associate Professor of Pediatrics & Public Health, University of Connecticut School of Medicine

What is the biggest challenge for the parents of a teen driver?

Parents make many of the important decisions about their teenagers’ driving, including when they will get a license and what type of car they drive. The biggest challenge for parents is to be fully aware and enforce their state's graduated driver licensing laws. Using a parent-teen safety agreement that establishes the driving rules and consequences for violations are effective in reducing motor vehicle violations. In-vehicle monitoring devices have the potential to help engage parents more fully in supervising their children’s driving and to keep young drivers safer when their parents are not in the vehicle. The devices monitor driving and can give feedback to teenagers or their parents.

Finally, I highly recommend a book for parents, ‘Not So Fast: Parenting Your Teen Through the Dangers of Driving’, by Tim Hollister.

What is the biggest risk that teen drivers face?

Young drivers tend to overestimate their own driving abilities and, at the same time, underestimate the dangers on the road. Crash rates for young drivers are high largely because of their immaturity combined with driving inexperience. The immaturity is apparent in young drivers' risky driving practices such as speeding. At the same time, teenagers' lack of experience behind the wheel makes it difficult for them to recognize and respond to hazards. They get in trouble trying to handle unusual driving situations, and these situations turn disastrous more often than when older people drive.

Do you have any tips for minimizing the cost of having a teen driver family?

Teenagers should drive vehicles that reduce their chances of crashes in the first place and then protect them from injury in case they do crash. Larger vehicles generally offer better protection than smaller vehicles. When selecting vehicles for a teenager to drive, parents should look for models that earn good crash test ratings and have the latest safety technology, including side airbags to protect people’s heads in crashes and electronic stability control to avoid crashes. Many used vehicles have these safety features. Parents should avoid high-horsepower models that might encourage teenagers to speed.

What should legislators do in order to enhance safety among teen drivers?

Teenage drivers have the highest crash risk per mile traveled, compared with drivers in other age groups. Young drivers tend to overestimate their driving abilities and underestimate the dangers on the road. Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws reduce this risk by making sure teens gradually build up driving experience under lower-risk conditions as they mature and develop skills. That means limiting nighttime driving, restricting teen passengers and making sure teens get lots of supervised practice. Graduated licensing has reduced teen crashes 10-30 percent on average.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have a three-stage GDL system. The United States doesn't have a national GDL law. State lawmakers decide what provisions to adopt and how to enforce them. States with the strongest laws enjoy bigger reductions in teen driver deaths than states with weak laws. Some states make teens wait a little longer before they get their learner permits and full-privilege licenses. This also saves lives.
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Ruth Shults

Senior Epidemiologist, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What is the biggest challenge for the parents of a teen driver?

The biggest challenge for parents may be appreciating how much driving their teen needs to become a competent, safe driver under all driving conditions. A teen can learn the basics of vehicle handing in a matter of hours, but becoming a skilled, safe driver takes years. Families should be encouraged to have their teen practice driving with an adult supervisor as much as possible and in all types of driving conditions. Resources are available for parents to help them make the most of the time spent practice driving with their teen.

Driving is a complex skill, much like playing an instrument or playing a competitive sport. Developing the skill and insight to drive safely under all conditions takes years. Parents are key to keeping their teens safe throughout the learning-to-drive process.

What is the biggest risk that teen drivers face?

The biggest risk for teen drivers is not knowing what they don’t know. They have not yet developed the unconscious driving behaviors—such as constantly scanning the 360 degrees—that alert experienced drivers to potential hazards. Teens are slower to recognize potential hazards, and when they do, their options for avoiding a crash or other harmful event are limited. And, because of the lack of experience dealing with emergencies, when faced with one, teen drivers may be at a loss for how to respond.

Do you have any tips for minimizing the cost of having a teen driver family?

One easy way for parents to control costs related to a teen driver and provide an extra level of safety is to have the teen share a family car. Teens who share a family car tend to take fewer risks when driving. Also, the family car tends to be newer than a car purchased for a teen, and therefore, may have more safety features. Parents and teens should agree to the “rules of the road” and establish consequences for breaking the rules before the teen begins to drive independently. The rules can be reviewed and updated as the teen gains driving experience. Families may choose to formalize the process using a ‘parent-teen driver agreement’. Lastly, parents should insist that everyone in the car be belted—no excuses! Simply wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of dying or being seriously injured in a crash by about 50 percent.

What should legislators do in order to enhance safety among teen drivers?

When considering traffic safety policy, legislators can seek out information on the effectiveness of various policy options.
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Laurence Steinberg

Professor of Psychology, Temple University and author of the forthcoming book, “Age of Opportunity: Lessons From the New Science of Adolescence”

What is the biggest challenge for the parents of a teen driver?

I think the biggest challenge for parents is making sure that the teen’s tremendous enthusiasm for driving is tempered by a recognition of the seriousness and dangerousness of the activity.

What is the biggest risk that teen drivers face?

Probably overconfidence, especially for male drivers. One fascinating survey that asked adolescent boys what makes a “good” driver found that the leading answer was being able to drive fast and take risks without crashing. In other words, they don’t equate being a “good” driver with being a safe driver.

Do you have any tips for minimizing the cost of having a teen driver family?

Having a parent-teen contract is a very good idea. The contract can specify which expenses the teen is responsible for and can also include agreements about the teen paying for any additional insurance costs if he or she has an accident. That will motivate safer driving. It also makes sense to have some rules about when the teen can drive and when he or she cannot, as a way of limiting unnecessary driving. That will keep gas and maintenance costs down. Finally, there’s nothing that says that just because a teen has reached the legal driving age, he or she has to immediately get a license. In fact, these days, many teenagers are postponing getting their licenses until they are closer to 18.

What should legislators do in order to enhance safety among teen drivers?

Probably the best thing legislatures could do would be to raise the driving age to 18, but I don’t think that this will happen anytime soon. Short of that, graduated driver licensing laws, which place restrictions on when teenagers can drive and how many passengers they are allowed to have in the car, have proven to be very effective in reducing auto fatalities.
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Gregory Fabiano

Associate Professor of Counseling, School, and Educational Psychology, University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education

What is the biggest challenge for the parents of a teen driver?

One of the biggest challenges for parents of teen drivers is determining how much freedom to provide in driving while also ensuring appropriate monitoring and supervision. There is also an idea that once a teen earns a license, the parent's job is done -- in fact this may be the most important time for parents to support and monitor the teen as the riskiest time for new drivers is immediately following licensure.

What is the biggest risk that teen drivers face?

Although teens may be able to operate a vehicle well enough to pass a driver's license test, their judgment and experience in driving is at the lowest it will ever be. Supports to promote good judgment, or prevent the teen from being in risky situations to begin with (e.g., having teen passengers, driving at night) is perhaps one of the biggest risks.

Do you have any tips for minimizing the cost of having a teen driver family?

Costs might be diminished by extending the supervised driving period before licensure. We have also found in our work helping parents use technologies such as engine performance monitors and on-board cameras (which cost less than most insurance deductibles) can be a useful support to identify risky behaviors before they become costly ones.

What should legislators do in order to enhance safety among teen drivers?

Policymakers should focus on evidence-informed legislation, balancing supportive approaches with prudent limits on teen driving. (Not sure if this is my best answer - I work mostly with individuals and not as much on policy).
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Donald L. Fisher

Professor and Head, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Massachusetts

What is the biggest challenge for the parents of a teen driver?

Parents generally do not understand that people in general, not just teens, learn best when they make errors. One of the primary reasons it is thought that the crash rate increases rapidly after the parent stops riding with the teen is that the parent has been making all of the decisions for the teen during the learner’s permit period. Parents need to find situations where their teens can make errors that do not create crash risks. Barring that, parents need to find ways to provide their teens with training on a driving simulator (or closed course) which allows the teens to make errors safely from which they can then learn.

What is the biggest risk that teen drivers face?

Teens are much more generally clueless than they imagine, not understanding where they need to look in order to anticipate hazards, not understanding how long they can safely glance away from the forward roadway to perform critical in-vehicle tasks, and not understand how to mitigate the hazards they do anticipate. Because many driver education programs need to focus on a much larger range of issues than just crash avoidance, teens are likely to weight everything equally, giving less weight than they should to the information which can help them avoid crashes. And even when that knowledge is given, it is typically not well absorbed because the teen is not learning through the making of errors. Rather, the teen is being told what to do and not to do. If the teen truly understood how little he or she knew, the teen would be much more actively involved in driving, less willing to text, talk on the phone, speed, or entertain other passengers in the car.

What should legislators do in order to enhance safety among teen drivers?

Legislators would do well to survey the increasing research on the advances that have been made in training novice drivers to anticipate hazards, mitigate the hazards they anticipate, and maintain attention all the while. This research suggests that real improvements can be made in these skills. These skills have a proven relation to crashes. Legislators could require training in these skills using proven methods. Legislators could also much better fund research to determine which programs worked and which did not.
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Richard Lichenstein

Director of Pediatric Emergency Research, University of Maryland School of Medicine

What is the biggest challenge for the parents of a teen driver?

The biggest challenge for parents when having a teen driver is not only being a good teacher of the mechanics of driving safely but also being a good parent. Parents must recognize the obligation to continually work with their teen to promote safe driving behaviors even when it means taking the keys away if the teen is engaged in risky driving behaviors.

What is the biggest risk that teen drivers face?

The biggest risk that teen drivers are facing is their lack of experience behind the wheel coupled with the influence of distraction. Distraction now comes in many forms including having other passengers in the vehicle and use of technology. Cell phone usage, texting and listening to music with headphones are unfortunately more commonly seen and have increased risk of crashes.

Do you have any tips for minimizing the cost of having a teen driver family?

Parents should check to see if there are insurance discounts for driver education program, good student discounts, or technology monitoring devices. Teen should drive conventional vehicles rather than high performance cars which are less costly to insure.

What should legislators do in order to enhance safety among teen drivers?

Legislators should enact legislation derived from concepts of the graduated driver’s license. It should include supervised driving for at least 6 months under a learners permit; a provisional license covering persons under 18 years of age which would be in effect till driver reaches 21 years of age and would include a 10:00 PM curfew and no passengers under 18 years of age; zero tolerance for alcohol use; mandatory seat belt use and a ban on use of all cell phones.
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Corinne Peek-Asa

Director of the Injury Prevention Research Center, Professor of Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Iowa College of Public Health

What is the biggest challenge for the parents of a teen driver?

The conflicts between setting rules and restrictions, such as when and to where the teen can drive, with the need to motivate teens to choose safe behaviors on their own, is a challenge for parents. Rules about when to be home are easily enforced, but a rule about wearing a seat belt is very difficult to enforce when teens begin driving independently (because parents usually cannot watch the teen in the car).

Often, parents don’t start thinking about safety until their teen begins learning how to drive, but the seeds to become a safe driver can be planted long before that. Modeling safe behaviors and making safety a priority are important from very early in childhood. Parents should start to talk about and model safe behavior as early and often as possible.

What is the biggest risk that teen drivers face?

The biggest challenge for the teenaged driver is staying constantly alert and present while driving. The teenage brain is inherently subject to distractions, both internal (such as being sleepy or going through a very emotional experience) and external (such as loud music or texting), but driving, especially when a novice, requires constant attention.

Do you have any tips for minimizing the cost of having a teen driver family?

To the extent possible, having teen drivers share in some costs, such as a percentage of the gas, maintenance, insurance, etc., helps them understand the financial responsibility of driving and may help them feel more engaged.

What should legislators do in order to enhance safety among teen drivers?

Policies that limit risky driving conditions, such as graduated driver’s licensure laws, allow novice drivers to gain experience in the safest driving conditions. Many states can enhance their GDL laws to be more inclusive of the most effective elements, such as night driving and passenger restrictions.
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Jean Thatcher Shope

Research Professor, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and School of Public Health

What is the biggest challenge for the parents of a teen driver?

The biggest challenge is appreciating just how different the teen driving alone and independently is from the teen driving with parental supervision as a learner. That change to independent driving is when the most crashes occur as teens encounter situations they are not yet prepared for. Graduated driver licensing systems have been put in place to provide a more gradual approach to this transition.

What is the biggest risk that teen drivers face?

The biggest risk is the inexperience teens have with traffic, road conditions, passengers, weather conditions, etc. The more practice/experience teens can acquire with parents supervising, and then driving independently under restrictions (no night driving, no passengers), the better off they will be.

Do you have any tips for minimizing the cost of having a teen driver family?

Avoiding violations and crashes, even minor ones, will reduce costs. Parents can help teens learn to be safe drivers, anticipating hazards and driving defensively. Parental monitoring of teens' early independent driving will help reduce violations and crashes. Using the proven Checkpoints Program () and completing a parent/teen agreement is highly recommended.

What should legislators do in order to enhance safety among teen drivers?

Legislators should recognize the important roles of teens' driving practice, and experience driving under restrictions, so should not introduce exceptions to graduated driving licensing programs that undermine those restrictions while teens are still gaining essential experience.
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Peter T. Savolainen

Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Wayne State University Transportation Research Group

What is the biggest challenge for the parents of a teen driver?

Research has consistently shown that younger drivers tend to exhibit crash rates (per number of miles driven) that are markedly higher than older, more experienced drivers. Much of this increased crash risk is likely due to inexperience among this driving group.

Comparing crash risk to age, we see a decreasing trend up to ages of roughly the mid-50s. Crash risks then begin to increase with age (reflecting physiological effects of aging such as increased reaction times, deteriorating physical skills, etc.), resulting in a U-shape curve.

The issue of inexperience among younger drivers is exacerbated by additional risk factors. For example, younger drivers have also been shown to be more likely to engage in other high-risk behaviors, including speeding, drinking and driving, distracted driving, etc.

What is the biggest risk that teen drivers face?

Safety research has consistently shown that over 90% of crashes are due to driver error. One of the most frequently cited issues associated with such crashes is distracted driving. This could include obvious sources of distraction, such as cell phone use, as well as more subtle distractions such as engaging in discussions with a passenger. Talking and, particularly, texting while driving have been a very prominent part of recent discussion related to distracted driving. Younger drivers engage in these types of activities much more frequently (specifically texting), so that is probably one of the biggest risk areas. However, as noted previously, there are a host of in-vehicle and external distractions to which younger drivers appear to be particularly susceptible.

Do you have any tips for minimizing the cost of having a teen driver family?

Costs such as auto insurance are obviously a function of how frequently a person drivers and the conditions under which this driving occurs. Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs have placed restrictions on some of the highest risk situations (e.g., nighttime driving).

These programs have shown some degree of success, which suggests that if families are able to engage teen drivers in avoiding or at least understanding higher risk driving situations, that is a step in the right direction.

What should legislators do in order to enhance safety among teen drivers?

GDL programs have been a step in the right direction. However, legislation is often a difficult means by which to affect driver behavior. Some programs have been effective, most notably seat belt enforcement programs, which have been shown to dramatically increase use rates (and, as a result, decrease traffic fatalities). However, other legislation, such as bans on talking or texting while driving have been less effective to date. Much of this relates to the fact that these laws are more difficult to enforce. Limited resources for targeted law enforcement programs also inhibit some of the potential impact of such programs.

Some of the auto manufacturers have introduced in-vehicle features, which include technologies that ban or restrict the ability to send or receive texts, for example (Ford's MyKey and Sync come to mind).

Ultimately, I think a lot of our driving issues are endemic of our culture. There is much less tolerance in other countries for issues such as drinking and driving than in the United States. More stringent legislation may offer some part of this solution, but there really needs to be a large-scale buy-in from drivers as to why these issues are important. There is a really nice national campaign, termed ‘‘Toward Zero Deaths’’ that is aimed at promoting public buy-in to the importance of traffic safety.
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Shari Willis

Associate Professor of Health and Exercise Science, Rowan University

What is the biggest challenge for the parents of a teen driver?

As a parent and an individual teaching drivers education, I feel that parents do not feel adequately prepared to assist their teen in the learning process. When we teach a child to do a skill there is a logical progression. For example, in tennis we first teach how to hold the racket. What do we teach first in driving? Where do we start?

Highway Traffic Safety offices as well as Department of Transportations and Motor Vehicles have guides to assist parents. I also would recommend that parents take the time to read the Driving manual. Parents forget some things that seem intuitive to us, such as how far before a turn we turn on our blinker. In addition, our early research is showing us that parents underestimate their influence on their teen drivers. Understanding that they are more influential in the development of their teens' driving habits is important in engaging them in that development.

What is the biggest risk that teen drivers face?

They do not have the same experiences and they have a limited ability to apply past learning to new situations, both due to limited experience and lack of maturity in extrapolating what experience they do have.

Teens are unaware that they are driving two tons of metal and what that can mean if they are careless; they learned ‘F=ma’ in math or physics but they don't apply it to driving crashes in the way a more experienced or mature driver might.

Do you have any tips for minimizing the cost of having a teen driver family?

I would recommend driver education to all teen drivers. I would also recommend that parents be very actively involved in driving with their teens, as much as possible, and in as many different circumstances as they can (night, rain, highways, rush hour, etc.).

What should legislators do in order to enhance safety among teen drivers?

In the state of New Jersey the GDL has been instrumental in reducing crashes. Having strong laws based upon research is important.
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Elisa R Braver

Adjunct Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, University of Maryland

What is the biggest challenge for the parents of a teen driver?

The biggest challenge is finding the time and summoning up your courage to spend enough time supervising your beginning teenage driver on all types of roads under all types of weather conditions - and keeping up the practice sessions until you are confident in their skills.

There is one more big challenge: it's tempting to have your teenager drive your oldest and least safe car. However, your teenager is at high risk of dying or getting seriously injured in a crash and they need to be driving as safe a car as possible, preferably one that is at least midsized and that has side airbags, electronic stability control, and other crash avoidance features.

What is the biggest risk that teen drivers face?

The biggest risk is that teen drivers tend to speed when they don't have an adult with them. At least a third of fatal crashes involving teen drivers involve speeding - and this number gets even higher for teenage boys, at nighttime, and with passengers. Younger teen drivers speed more than older teens.

Do you have any tips for minimizing the cost of having a teen driver family?

You will save money by reducing the chances that your child will get into fender-benders and more serious crashes. Crashes will make your insurance rates get even higher

The biggest money saver is having your teen borrow your car rather than getting a car of their own. Teenagers who have their own cars are more likely to get into crashes (twice as likely, according to AAA). When my two daughters were teenagers, they needed to ask my permission to borrow the family car and tell me where they wanted to go. You can see how this protected them from crashes and other troubles that teenagers get into. When a teenager gets his or her own car, parents have less control over their whereabouts.

You need to make it clear to your teenager that any tickets for speeding or running red lights or other moving violations are unacceptable. These violations are unsafe and make your insurance rates go up. If they do get a ticket, there needs to be a consequence: they should pay it and their driving privileges should be restricted for a while.

You should consider an in-vehicle monitoring system. They will notify parents if teenagers are speeding or failing to use their seat belt. If you do have such a device, it's important to keep on top of it. Some parents have gotten them and then have failed to check the device website to see how their teen was driving.

Even after your child gets a license, they are not yet ready to drive everywhere on their own. Start with permitting them to go on short trips and see how they are doing before you allow them to go across the city or travel to another city. Research by Dr. Anne McCartt shows that the riskiest time for a teen is during the first month or first 500 miles of driving after they get their license and it continues to be high for those first few months before going down.

What should legislators do in order to enhance safety among teen drivers?

Some states have graduated licensing laws that need to be strengthened. For example, they may restrict driving by new drivers from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., but nighttime driving restrictions should go into effect earlier in the evening, preferably by 9 p.m.

Legislators also need to address the inconsistencies in speeding enforcement that allow most drivers, including teens, to get away with speeding. Eventually, I would like to see advanced speed monitoring and feedback devices in cars driven by teenagers that would keep them from exceeding the speed limit on any given road by 5 mph or more.

Parents do not have to wait for legislation: they can install in-vehicle monitoring devices now to keep their teenage drivers safe.
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Shannon C. Roberts

Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison

What is the biggest challenge for the parents of a teen driver?

The biggest challenge for parents with a teenage driver is knowing exactly what their teenage driver is doing in the car, especially when they drive with other teenage passengers. When not under the watch of a responsible adult, teenagers are prone to engage in risky driving behavior, especially if they are riding with other risk-seeking teenage passengers. There are devices that parents can install in their teenage driver's cars that record their driving behavior, but teenagers often oppose the use of those devices because it makes it seem as if the parent doesn't trust the teenager.

What is the biggest risk that teen drivers face?

The biggest risk facing teenage drivers is their reliance upon the use of technology to communicate. Compared to their parents, teenagers have a strong connection to technology, especially cell phones. Combining their strong connection with technology with their lack of driving experience can lead to dangerous situations where they choose to answer a phone call or respond to a text when they should be paying attention to the road. Teenagers’ interaction with cell phones while driving increases their risk of being in a crash.

Do you have any tips for minimizing the cost of having a teen driver family?

To diminish the cost of having a teenage driver, I would suggest that parents take advantage of whatever incentive programs their insurance companies have to offer like discounts for good grades, completion of a driving course, or the installation of devices that record teenagers driving behavior, like Progressive Snapshot or the American Family Teen Safe Driver Program.

What should legislators do in order to enhance safety among teen drivers?

To enhance safety among teenage drivers, legislators and law enforcement officials should continue to create and enforce strict GDL (graduated driver licensing) laws, e.g., no teenage passengers in the vehicle, no use of cell phones while driving, etc.
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Bruce Simons-Morton

NICHD Associate Director for Prevention, Senior Investigator and Chief, Health Behavior Branch, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

What is the biggest challenge for the parents of a teen driver?

The two biggest challenges for parents of new drivers are (1) determining readiness for licensure; and (2) managing driving privileges.

1) Readiness: Delaying licensure as long as possible is recommended because even a few months of increase maturity can matter with respect to driving safely. Older teens are more mature and better able to handle social pressures and maintain appropriate attention to driving.

2) Managing driving privileges: Teens do not drive on their own as they do when their parents are in the vehicle, but parents can affect driving performance by establishing expectations for safe driving (preferably negotiating a parent-teen driving agreement) and maintaining a high level of monitoring knowledge about teen driving, including where they go, how late they stay out, and who their passengers are.

What is the biggest risk that teen drivers face?

There are several important teen driver risks.

1) Novices, by definition, are lousy and novice drivers are no exception. Driving-safety judgment develops only with experience, so novices should drive only under relatively safe driving conditions, on familiar roads, with few teenage passengers, not late at night, and never engage in secondary tasks such as dialing or texting.

2) Teenage drivers exhibit the propensity to drive fast, leading to kinematic risk in the form of elevated gravitational force events, such as hard braking and sharp turns, which increase the potential for loss of vehicle control.

3) Teenage drivers are at high crash risk due to distraction when engaging in secondary tasks such as dialing and texting.

4) Teenage drivers are at high crash risk when carrying teenage passengers, particularly late at night.

Do you have any tips for minimizing the cost of having a teen driver family?

Parents should negotiate and repeatedly revise a parent-teen driving agreement that establishes limits on newly licensed drivers and notes how and when teens can gain additional driving privileges.

Insurance costs are largely based on age and driving record, so emphasize to your teen how important it is to maintain a crash-free and citation-free driving record.

What should legislators do in order to enhance safety among teen drivers?

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) policies have been shown to reduce fatal crash rates by limiting newly licensed driving late at night and with multiple passengers. More strict policies appear to be more effective and many states have revised their GDL policies several times over the years to provide additional protection. However, parents are the true guardians of their teens’ driving, and the primary benefit of GDL is providing parents with an important tool for limiting high-risk exposure as their teens gain essential driving experience.


As we’ve observed, teen driving can impose a heavy burden on the consciences as well as the finances of the adults who are ultimately responsible for their children’s actions. We approached this particular study with those adults in mind and considered the vulnerability of teen drivers during summer months. Using 16 key metrics, WalletHub compared the Best & Worst States for Teen Drivers and examined the 1) Safety Conditions, 2) Economic Environment and 3) Driving Laws that affect the overall driving conditions in each of the 50 states.

You can check out the metrics as well as the corresponding weights we used to construct our overall rankings below. The three categories under which the metrics are listed were used for organizational purposes only and did not factor in to our overall rankings.

Safety Conditions

  • Percent of Teen Population with Driver's Licenses: 1
  • Teen Drivers as a Percent of Total Drivers: 1
  • Vehicle Miles Traveled per Capita: 1
  • Teen Driver Fatalities per Licensed Teen Drivers: 1
  • Number of Teen “Under the Influence” Traffic Violations per Licensed Teen Drivers(based on number of arrests): 1
  • Quality of Roads: 1

Economic Environment

  • Maximum Value of Speed Ticket: 0.5
  • Maximum Value of Red Light Ticket: 0.5
  • Maximum First Offense Fines for not Wearing a Seat Belt: 0.5
  • Average Cost of Car Repairs: 1
  • Premium Increase after Adding a Teen Driver to your Auto Insurance Policy: 1

Driving Laws

  • Teen Driver's Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program Laws: 1
  • Occupant Protection Laws: 1
  • Impaired Driving Laws: 1
  • Distracted-Driving/Texting-While-Driving Laws: 1
  • Red Light and Speeding Camera Laws: 0.5

Source: Data used to create these rankings is courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, TRIP, CarMD, InsuranceQuotes.com and the Governors Highway Safety Association.

John Kiernan is Senior Writer & Editor at Evolution Finance. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a BA in Journalism, a minor in Sport Commerce & Culture,…
1201 Wallet Points
I would like to know what analyses were done to compare the states' data, as well as if you compared just summer months or an entire year of driving statistics. Also how did you operationalize 'summer'? Each state has different weather for summer, which could be a confounding variable when looking at their best amd worst teen drivers, given the road conditions. Also as people have mentioned in the twitter feed, it would be good to analyze how many
teens of the state's population are actually driving versus those taking public transportation or walking/biking places. I would also like to know what years this data was collected from.
Jun 23, 2014  •  Reply  •  Flag
Hawaii's GDL laws includes 5 of the 7 optimal GDL provisions, and other laws incorporate the other two. Why wasn't it included in the best states for GDL?
Jun 19, 2014  •  Reply (1)  •  Flag
According to Hawaii's DMV, teens can drive the car at night by themselves if they are going/returning from work or school. Also, learner’s permit can be obtained at 15 ½ and not at 16, while unrestricted driver’s license can be obtained at 17 and not at 18. Because of this we considered that Hawaii meets 4 out of 7 optimal GDL provisions.
Jun 30, 2014  •  Reply  •  Flag