Best and worst states for teenage drivers

Teenage driver with driving instructor in car. AP

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among American teenagers -- and some states have a far worse track record than others.

A new report by the personal finance Web site WalletHub uses those statistics as well as other safety and financial data to compile a list of the best and worst states for teen drivers overall.

In addition to teen driver fatalities, criteria taken into account include the rate of teen violations for driving under the influence; the number of teen drivers and miles traveled per capita; whether a state has strong traffic laws, including provisions against texting while driving; and factors such as the cost of car repairs and insurance.

Overall, WalletHub ranks these as the worst states for teen drivers:

  • 50. South Dakota
  • 49. Mississippi
  • 48. Nebraska
  • 47. Oklahoma
  • 46. Wyoming

And these states ranked best overall:

  • 1. New York
  • 2. Hawaii
  • 3. Illinois
  • 4. Oregon
  • 5. Rhode Island

See how your state ranks in this interactive map:

WalletHub

Looking at teen driver fatalities alone, the rankings are somewhat different. These states had the worst teen driver fatality rate:

  • 50. Indiana
  • 49. Kentucky
  • 48. New Mexico
  • 47. North Dakota
  • 46. Montana

While these states ranked best:

  • 1. Utah
  • 2. Delaware
  • 3. Connecticut
  • 4. Vermont
  • 5. Washington

New Mexico had the highest rate of teen "under the influence" traffic violations, while Alabama had the lowest.

"The biggest risk for teen drivers is not knowing what they don't know," Ruth Shults, a senior epidemiologist at the CDC, said in a statement. "They have not yet developed the unconscious driving behaviors -- such as constantly scanning 360 degrees -- that alert experienced drivers to potential hazards."

"Young drivers tend to overestimate their own driving abilities and, at the same time, underestimate the dangers on the road," Garry Lapidus, an associate professor of pediatrics and public health at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, said in a statement.

But there are steps parents can take to try to make sure that their kids are safer behind the wheel.

"Using a parent-teen safety agreement that establishes the driving rules and consequences for violations is effective in reducing motor vehicle violations," Lapidus said. "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."

Experts also recommend that parents actually spend as much time as possible teaching their kids how to drive safely.

"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," Shults said. "Resources are available for parents to help them make the most of the time spent practice driving with their teen."

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