In a recent study of the best and worst states for teen drivers, in the category of teen drivers with “Under the Influence” traffic violations, Colorado ranks near the bottom, at 47. The study places Colorado at number 30 overall, ranking it at 39 for safety conditions, 35 for economic environment, and 13 for driving laws. Wallet Hub, which conducted the study, writes that while getting a driver’s license was traditionally a teen rite of passage in the U.S., it has become “a death sentence for thousands of teens every year.”
The Washington, D.C.-based Wallet Hub, which describes itself as “the web’s best personal finance resource,” based its findings about state rankings on 16 key metrics, such as the average cost of car repairs, the number of teen drivers per state, the strictness of impaired-driving laws, and the number of teen driving fatalities, as John S. Kiernan writes for the site. The organization’s aim was to give parents and other concerned adults the facts, in order to help them do what is necessary to improve teen driving safety across the country.
The study ranks New York state as the best state for teen drivers, as its driving laws are ranked number 1. Its safety conditions are ranked number 2, and its economic environment is ranked 7. The worst state for teen drivers according to the study is South Dakota, with a 48 ranking for safety conditions, a 50 ranking for driving laws, and a 1 ranking for economic environment.
Hawaii, which is ranked number 2 overall, has a number 1 ranking for safety conditions. It is not clear from Wallet Hub‘s rankings chart exactly how the system works, as the number rankings are not exclusive: more than one state can have the same rank. For example, New Jersey and North Carolina are both ranked number 6 for driving laws, and yet South Dakota is still ranked number 50 in that category.
In an article about the study for wtkr.com, Charyssa Parent notes that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Wyoming are the worst states for teen drivers, Parent adds. Teens between 16 and 19 have the highest crash rate of any age group, Wallet Hub writes, and although they comprise only 14% of the U.S. population, teens account for about 30% of the total costs of motor vehicle accidents. During the summer, an average of 260 teens are killed in car accidents every month, the study reports.
Wallet Hub features a section called “Ask the experts,” with answers from:
- Garry Lapidus, Director, Injury Prevention Center, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and Associate Professor of Pediatrics & Public Health, University of Connecticut School of Medicine;
- Ruth Shults: Senior Epidemiologist, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
- Laurence Steinberg: Professor of Psychology at Temple University and author of the forthcoming book Age of Opportunity: Lessons From the New Science of Adolescence;
- Gregory Fabiano: Associate Professor of Counseling, School, and Educational Psychology, University at Buffalo, Graduate School of Education;
- Donald L. Fisher: Professor and Head, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Massachusetts.
In answer to the question “What should legislators do in order to enhance safety among teen drivers?” Steinberg says:
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.