By on June 22, 2016


Statistics show that, as a whole, teen drivers are unsafe, and could easily saddle you with a huge repair bill.

So, what’s the best state to live in if you’re planning to hand your keys to someone aged 15 to 24? A new study by WalletHub maps it out, ranking each state based on three categories — safety conditions, driving laws and economic environment.

The categories contain a total of 16 metrics. When combined, New York emerges with the best score — 74.97 on a one-to-100 scale.

However, because the score is an average, a top-ranked state might not be great in one of the three categories. Delaware, that east coast playground loved by tax-averse residents and Joe Biden, ranks fourth on the list, but places first for safety and 44th for economy (meaning the cost of traffic offenses and repairs).

South Dakota put itself on the map by coming in dead last. The Mount Rushmore State ranked 47th for safety, 37th for cost, and 50th for driving laws, meaning it’s not a bad place for childless, reasonably well-off Libertarians.

WalletHub notes that motor vehicle accidents are still the leading cause of death for people aged 16 to 19, with the “young person” age group (15-24) soaking up almost a third of costs related to accidents. Their study also breaks the rankings down into individual factors, such as teen DUIs, number of fatalities, lowest cost of adding a teen driver to your insurance policy, etc.

Statistics like these could make parents think twice about handing over the keys to the Odyssey on a Friday night, especially in South Dakota.

[Source: WalletHub]

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27 Comments on “Study Reveals the Best States for Teen Drivers. Sorry, South Dakota...”

  • avatar

    Add “texting” to what were already risky drivers and you get a seriously risky pool of deeply indebted drivers who can barely afford their consequently higher insurance premiums.

    • 0 avatar

      this. I see so many (younger) people staring at their phones while driving. I wish I could just reach in, rip the damn thing out of their hand, and slam it to the ground.

      and if you say anything to them about it, they give you a s**t back. I was on a ride once, at a red light one of the guys I was riding with asked the (teen) driver in the next lane to put down the phone while driving. Response? “F**k off, dude!”

      Teenagers are why I don’t have kids.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a NIMBY-type response from you BTSR, and I’m disappointed.

      You and I went nuts being able to run around like lunatics at the prime age of 16 and drive as much as we wanted after passing the barest of “tests.”

      I support the youth of today and their hunger to burn Up the road and seek al, sorts of depraved fun in their vehicles, as I once enjoyed (a$$, grass, late nights, and one’s first real taste of FREEDOM).

      Just may e slap a fluorescent orange ginormous sticker on the rear of vehicles piloted by 16 to 17 year olds so we who were once their age stand a reasonable prospect of keeping a safe radius of distance from them as they do their thing, as we once did.

      But – really – texting while driving is a bad idea, you kids! (seriously, don’t do it).

  • avatar

    They are just pissy because in South Dakota you can get a learner’s permit at 14, a restricted license 90 days later (if you took a driver’s ed class, 180 if you didn’t) and a full license at 16.

    It’s a holdover from when farmer’s children were needed to help drive equipment from field to field or grain trucks from field to elevator.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Not only that, but farm families routinely let children drive on country roads without a license. It was pretty obvious that half the 14 year olds in my rural Kansas high-school drivers ed class had years of experience driving before they took the course

    • 0 avatar

      And there are still plenty of farm families in East River and ranch families in West River who would do that. Just not enough (IMO) that it should stay at 14. When a full 27% of your state’s population lives in two cities, you can’t always be falling back on the rural excuse.

    • 0 avatar

      The only thing that should matter is deaths/injuries per passenger mile. If the Dakotas are bad, the truth should come out because the population is low. Are they bad? No idea. This “study” is just a front for an IIHS wish list.

  • avatar

    Oregon, proverbial home of well kept Swedish iron, ranks second. Excellent.

  • avatar

    I see Oregon ranked #2. I remember hearing some time ago that Oregon had one of the strictest license testing programs in the US.

    South Dakota was the worst as stated. Also in the bottom 3 for “most teen driver fatalities per teen population” and “highest number of teen DUIs per teen population”.

  • avatar

    The link provided at the bottom is worth a read.

  • avatar

    Would it be reasonable to posit here that New York made #1 due to the fact that a lower percentage of teen drivers don’t drive there (primarily NYC)? Further (and just speculating), rural states arguably have a higher percentage of teen drivers as related to the population and as related to the fewer number of large urban areas with high density and availability of mass transit?

  • avatar

    My eldest just got her license. In the state of Georgia, those under 18 are required to do drivers ed and have a minimum of 40 hours of supervised driving. There are two ways of getting the drivers ed requirement satisfied, either by doing a traditional 30 hour classroom/ 6 hour in car commercial drivers ed, or by taking an online course and completing the parent-teen drivers guide, which you can find here: We chose the latter. The commercial drivers ed course is $480, or $550 if you want the drivers ed company to administer the road test, while the online course is $20, you get to go to the DDS office for the road skills test. With the $530 we saved by doing the DIY approach, I sent her to Skip Barber’s school for a Teen Street Survival course (bought at the Skip Barber booth at the Petit Le Mans for $600) where she learned to brake hard, turn hard, and found out what a skid felt like on a wet skidpad.

    For the first six months, the only non-adult passengers she’s allowed to have are her siblings. After that, for the second six months, she’s allowed one minor passenger in addition to her siblings. After a year, she’s allowed three minor passengers. At age 18, she’s eligible to get a full license without any restrictions.

    • 0 avatar

      Georgia’s graduated licensing and testing sounds pretty good to me .
      I firmly believe in driver training .
      I was one of those Rural unlicensed pre teen age drivers ~ there was an abandoned truck, I fixed it up and began teaching myself how to drive .
      Same deal when I moved to California , I bought a junked VW Beetle for $50 (on time payments no less) made it run , got it registered and began driving years before I could even get a permit .
      So. Cal. Teenage drivers are awful , as bad a MassHoles IMO and I know both , having been one .
      I wonder if all beginning driver’s have the close calls I did .

  • avatar

    As a native South Dakotan with a libertarian streak I think a lot of their metrics are garbage. Apparently South Dakota is bad because it actually allows for the existence of teenage driving…

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, yes, political perspective should always overrule actual data.

      • 0 avatar

        When the data is nothing more than a political perspective, yes, it should.

      • 0 avatar

        Their metrics are political. Take their graduated driving law preference of age 16 to start learning & age 18 for a full license; when I grew up in SD those were 14 & 16, reflecting the realities of a large-area, low-population-density state with a large rural population % and little to no mass transit. Or their metric for automated enforcement, which is forbidden by SD law IIRC. About half the metrics are items that are politically determined at the state level, and much of the rest follows from those policies.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m confused by the methodology. Having more miles traveled per capita (by anyone) means you’re more teen friendly? I don’t understand how that has any impact and how SD might score low in that area.

      It’s also unclear to me how they rank the quality of the roads.

      Most confusing is they rank “States With the Highest & Lowest Insurance Premium Penalties for High Risk Drivers”. This is apparently scored on a 0-100 basis, but they don’t state which is favorable (pretty sure I know, but it’s an indicator of their limited ability to accurately communicate methodology).

      Like most best and worst lists on the interwebs, there’s just not enough information to determine if the ranking has any meaning. You simply can’t draw a conclusion.

  • avatar

    Good. Hawaii is #5 overall and #1 cheapest-to-add-to-insurance-policy state. My 15-yo nephew is starting to learn to drive this summer. And, you don’t have to worry, he’s not into smartphones at all.

  • avatar

    South Dakota resident here. There are a few reasons that people start driving when they’re 14, but the main reason is due to this being a primarily ag state. I had cousins and friends that grew up working on the family farm that started driving when they were 12, or tall enough to reach the pedals. Mind you, this was on rural gravel roads, but they were still in charge of a vehicle, and knew what they were doing.

    Aside from farming, this is a large state that still has a lot of small towns that are considerable distances from each other, meaning that a lot of younger people drive out of necessity. Driving here, and anywhere for that matter can be dangerous. Speed limits here are 80 mph, and this state is notorious for teens and other people not wearing their seat belts, so there are a lot of fatalities in accidents.

  • avatar

    Pennsylvania is #33, I blame the near constant road construction. I’ve been driving for a few years now and even I get tripped up by it.

  • avatar

    How the heck is Mass #6?

    Do people know why Mass drivers are called MassHoles?
    There’s plenty of reasons for that!

    The darn kids are as bad as their parents. Then combine that with elderly drivers and people coming in from outside America driving on heavily congested roads, lousy direction signs, if any and you wonder why Mass drivers are NOT looked upon kindly.

  • avatar

    The problem with South Dakota isn’t the drivers,but the roads.

    Lots of straight , long, rural highways through boring farmland with no dividers and uncontrolled intersections or stop signs.

    Run a stop sign in downtown Baltimore and you might have a fender bender. Worst thing is you break your bumper cover and your insurance bill.

    By comparison running a stop sign in most of South Dakota probably means a 120+ MPH combined speed wreck.

    Either two cars meet at highway speed, or one stationary or slow car meets a fast one.
    Not exactly a recipe for high survivability accidents. Wrecks may not happen often, but when they do what’s left of man and machine fits into a ziplock bag.

    I was stationed in Rapid City ten years back . Texting wasn’t a big deal (.25 per message meant you called someone to communicate) , but driving in really rural areas raised my hackles.
    One deer collusion or screwup at an uncontrolled intersection likely meant serious injury or death tens if not hundreds of miles from the nearest trauma center.

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