Getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage for American teens. It’s also dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among teens than among any other age group. Per mile driven, teen drivers are nearly three times as likely as drivers aged 20 or older to be in a fatal crash.
Some teens are at more risk than others. The motor vehicle death rate for male drivers is more than twice as high as that for female drivers of the same age, says the CDC. Also at high risk are newly licensed teens and teen passengers driving with teens.
Because risk also varies from state to state, 24/7 Wall St. has compiled a list of the best and worst states for teenage drivers by reviewing data gathered by the credit reporting and advice site WalletHub based on three key dimensions: safety, economic environment, and driving laws. The site evaluated those factors based on 23 relevant metrics, variously weighted, in order to rank each state according to conditions for teenage drivers (the higher the score, the more favorable the conditions). Among the metrics were teen “under the influence” violations per 100,000, share of teens texting or emailing while driving, quality of roads, maximum cost of a speeding ticket, and average cost of car repairs. (These are the worst cities to get your car fixed.)
Teen driver fatality statistics come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality and Injury Reporting System, and teen population figures (ages 15-19) were drawn from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey one-year estimates.
It may not come as a surprise to learn that the best-performing state is New York. That may be in part because it’s home to the largest city in the nation, where many teens live near their schools and places of work and where public transportation is the default choice for many. (Around the country, these are the safest cities for driving.)
At the other end of the spectrum is Wyoming, a relatively thinly populated state synonymous with wide open spaces. It has the smallest teenage population in the country, but one of the highest rates of teen driver fatalities.