Report highlights dangers of teen drivers in the U.S.

July 1, 2021

Tyson Fisher


As Congress considers lowering the age to drive trucks interstate to 18, WalletHub has compiled a list of the best and worst states for teen drivers, highlighting increased dangers among teen drivers.

Recently, financial website WalletHub took a look at how teen drivers are performing throughout the United States. WalletHub points out how drivers aged 16 to 19 are in the age group with the highest risk of crashes. Vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death among that age group.

“Getting a driver’s license is considered a rite of passage in American culture,” Adam McCann, financial writer for WalletHub, states. “But this exciting coming-of-age has instead become a death sentence for thousands of teens each year.”

Driving laws vary state by state, which has the potential to change driving performance from one state to another. WalletHub ranked states’ teen drivers by using a weighted measurement for safety (50 points), economic environment (40 points) and driving laws (10 points).

Safety includes teen driver fatalities per 100,000 teens, vehicle miles traveled per capita, seatbelt use and quality of roads. For economic environment, factors include average fuel prices, insurance premiums, cost of vehicle repairs and insurance penalties. Lastly, driving laws measurements include graduated driver licensing programs, occupant protection laws, distracted driving/texting laws and leniency toward DUI violations.

According to WalletHub’s data, the below are the best states for teen drivers:

  1. New York
  2. Oregon
  3. Connecticut
  4. Alaska
  5. Massachusetts
  6. Michigan
  7. Minnesota
  8. Texas
  9. Maryland
  10. New Jersey

Despite being ranked 31st in economic environment, New York secured the overall No. 1 spot by placing first in safety and driving laws.

Michigan has the first place slot for economic environment.

Meanwhile, the following states have the worst teen drivers:

  1. Wyoming
  2. Idaho
  3. South Dakota
  4. Montana
  5. Missouri
  6. Mississippi
  7. Nebraska
  8. Arkansas
  9. New Hampshire
  10. South Carolina

Source: WalletHub

Wyoming has the worst safety ranking, with Missouri having the worst driving laws. California, which has an overall ranking of 35, is the state with the worst economic environment.

By subcategory, rankings vary widely. Hawaii has the lowest insurance premiums for teens, with New Jersey having the highest. The fewest number of teen drivers are killed in crashes in North Dakota, but the most are being killed in Wyoming. Illinois has the fewest amount of teen drivers drinking and driving. Meanwhile, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming are tied for having the most teen drivers being drunk behind the wheel.

WalletHub’s teen drivers study comes at a time when the DRIVE-Safe Act is sitting in the House and Senate. HR1745 and SB659 call for teen drivers to be allowed to drive truck interstate by lowering the minimum age from 21 to 18.

Those who support the DRIVE-Safe Act claim allowing teen drivers to enter the industry will address the perceived driver shortage. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics debunked that theory more than two years ago.

In June, a coalition of organizations, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, sent a letter to leaders of the Senate subcommittee on transportation opposing the DRIVE-Safe Act. Opponents point out the Bureau of Labor Statistics report while citing numerous studies highlighting the dangers of teen drivers. The letter was signed off by organizations that rarely see eye to eye, including Advocates for Highway Safety, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, OOIDA, Parents Against Tired Drivers and the Truck Safety Coalition.

According to WalletHub’s recent report, vehicle crashes involving 15- to 19-year-olds resulted in $4.8 billion in costs from medical expenses and work loss. However, that calculation does not include vehicle maintenance, insurance premiums or traffic citations. LL


WW Williams

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.