Sara Routhier, Managing Editor of Features and Outreach, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming worl...

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Melanie Musson is the fourth generation in her family to work in the insurance industry. She grew up with insurance talk as part of her everyday conversation and has studied to gain an in-depth knowledge of state-specific car insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. She also specializes in automa...

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Reviewed by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert

UPDATED: Feb 5, 2021

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Just What's Essential

  • The South makes up eight states on our list of the deadliest teen drivers
  • Drivers between the ages of 15 to 19 cause 8 percent of all motor vehicle injury costs
  • From 1991 to 2017, teen seat belt usage increased by roughly 20 percent

For many teenagers, getting their driver’s license is as exciting as it is stressful. Driving a car means freedom, but it also comes with a great deal of responsibility and risk. For some teenagers, it can be difficult to fully appreciate that risk. This article ranks the 15 states with the deadliest teen drivers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teenage drivers are more likely than older drivers to make critical errors that result in serious crashes. For example, they are more likely to speed and less likely to keep a safe distance between vehicles.

Motor vehicle crashes can be costly on numerous levels. The CDC reports that young people ages 15 to 19 make up slightly more than 6 percent of the population. Yet, in 2016, they were responsible for 8.4 percent ($13.6 billion) of total motor vehicle injury costs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) finds that 16- to 20-year-olds account for 8.3 percent of all traffic fatalities in the U.S.

Every parent wants to do their part to keep their teenage driver as safe as possible. To raise awareness of potentially risky behaviors, our researchers turned to the latest data on teen driving patterns from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System and NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The researchers studied stats on seat belt use, drinking and driving, texting and driving, and fatalities.

Before we get to the study results, we know that car insurance — intrinsically related to these topics — can be confusing. That’s why we’ve put together a Car Insurance 101 page to explain the basics of car insurance, including how it works and how much it costs.

If you’re looking to jump right in and start searching for car insurance quotes, just put your ZIP code into our online quote comparison tool. You’ll find the best quotes from car insurance companies in your area, including car insurance quotes for any teenagers you have.

These quotes can range by the thousands, so you can save a great deal of money by finding the right car insurance company to insure your teenage driver. Now, let’s get back to the findings in the study of teenage driving habits.

Teenage Dangerous Driving: Key Findings

While the teenage fatality statistics surrounding teenage drivers can be grim, there is positive news. For example, more teens are taking preventive safety measures when they drive. In 1991, the CDC found that 25.9 percent of teens said they rarely wore their seat belt. However, that number has steadily decreased over the years. As of 2017, just 5.9 percent of teens said they rarely buckled up.

bar graph showing teen seat belt use in the US

Similarly, drinking and driving among teens has improved over the years. From 2013 to 2017, the percentage of teens who said they drink and drive fell from 10 percent to 5.5 percent. Yet, it is important to note that teen drivers are more likely than older drivers to be involved in motor vehicle crashes when they do drink and drive.

Despite improvements in seat belt use and impaired driving, national data shows no significant change in the number of teens who said they text and drive. From 2013 to 2017, the percentage of teens who engaged in this behavior remained flat at approximately 40 percent.
bar graphs showing numbers of teens involved in risky driving behaviors across the US

Texting while driving is an especially dangerous type of distracted driving because it involves manual, visual, and cognitive distraction. In the course of sending or reading a text message, drivers will take their eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. Even that short amount of time translates to the distance of a football field when driving at 55 mph.

At the state level, teen texting and driving shows a statistically significant positive correlation with teen motor vehicle fatalities by population. In general, states with more teens who text and drive also have more teens who die in motor vehicle accidents.

Interestingly, neither drinking and driving nor seat belt use show significant correlations with the number of teen motor vehicle fatalities. While correlation does not imply causation, this data—in addition to everything else known about distracted driving—makes a strong case for actively reducing cell phone use among teen drivers.


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When comparing gender across these statistics, both male and female teens are equally as likely to text and drive and fail to wear a seat belt. However, teenage males are significantly more likely than teenage females to drink and drive. Of teenage males, 6.8 percent report drinking and driving compared to 4.1 percent of teenage females.

NHTSA data further shows that teenage males are nearly twice as likely as teenage females to be involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes. In 2017, the organization found that 1,807 teenage males died as a result of a crash, compared to 925 teenage females. Fortunately, teen motor vehicle fatalities are down nearly a third from 1975 and the most significant declines are among teenage males.

teens involved in risky driving behavior by gender shown in bar graph

With these trends in mind, we wanted to use these statistics to identify the states with the most dangerous teenage drivers. To do this, our researchers created a composite score for each state based on the following metrics:

  • Percentage of teens who text and drive
  • Percentage of teens who drink and drive
  • Percentage of teens who rarely wear a seat belt
  • Teen traffic fatality rate per 100k teens

Only states with data available from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System were included in the analysis. Here are the states with the most at-risk teenage drivers.

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15 States with the Most Dangerous Teenage Drivers

When looking at teenage car accident statistics by state, these states emerged as the worst states for dangerous teenage drivers.

#15 – Arizona

  • Teens who text & drive: Data not available
  • Teens who drink & drive: 6.2% (12.7% worse than average)
  • Teens who rarely wear a seat belt: 8.1% (37.3% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatality rate: 12.6 per 100k (5.6% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatalities: 59 per year

#14 – West Virginia

  • Teens who text & drive: 34.0% (13.3% better than average)
  • Teens who drink & drive: 5.4% (1.8% better than average)
  • Teens who rarely wear a seat belt: 8.9% (50.8% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatality rate: 22.2 per 100k (85.7% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatalities: 24 per year

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#13 – Texas

  • Teens who text & drive: 39.3% (0.3% worse than average)
  • Teens who drink & drive: 7.1% (29.1% worse than average)
  • Teens who rarely wear a seat belt: 7.1% (20.3% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatality rate: 13.6 per 100k (13.9% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatalities: 273 per year

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#12 – Kansas

  • Teens who text & drive: 48.0% (22.4% worse than average)
  • Teens who drink & drive: 6.4% (16.4% worse than average)
  • Teens who rarely wear a seat belt: 5.0% (15.3% better than average)
  • Teen traffic fatality rate: 17.5 per 100k (46.2% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatalities: 35 per year

#11 – Oklahoma

  • Teens who text & drive: 45.7% (16.6% worse than average)
  • Teens who drink & drive: 5.3% (3.6% better than average)
  • Teens who rarely wear a seat belt: 8.0% (35.6% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatality rate: 19.7 per 100k (64.9% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatalities: 52 per year

#10 – South Carolina

  • Teens who text & drive: 45.4% (15.8% worse than average)
  • Teens who drink & drive: 7.5% (36.4% worse than average)
  • Teens who rarely wear a seat belt: 6.8% (15.3% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatality rate: 14.3 per 100k (19.4% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatalities: 46 per year

#9 – Idaho

  • Teens who text & drive: 47.0% (19.9% worse than average)
  • Teens who drink & drive: 6.0% (9.1% worse than average)
  • Teens who rarely wear a seat belt: 7.3% (23.7% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatality rate: 17.3 per 100k (44.5% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatalities: 21 per year

#8 – Tennessee

  • Teens who text & drive: 49.0% (25.0% worse than average)
  • Teens who drink & drive: Data not vailable
  • Teens who rarely wear a seat belt: 8.9% (50.8% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatality rate: 14.4 per 100k (20.1% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatalities: 61 per year

#7 – Iowa

  • Teens who text & drive: 55.2% (40.8% worse than average)
  • Teens who drink & drive: 6.5% (18.2% worse than average)
  • Teens who rarely wear a seat belt: 6.8% (15.3% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatality rate: 16.3 per 100k (36.3% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatalities: 35 per year

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#6 – Missouri

  • Teens who text & drive: 46.4% (18.4% worse than average)
  • Teens who drink & drive: 5.3% (3.6% better than average)
  • Teens who rarely wear a seat belt: 9.0% (52.5% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatality rate: 22.6 per 100k (89.3% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatalities: 89 per year

#5 – North Dakota

  • Teens who text & drive: 52.6% (34.2% worse than average)
  • Teens who drink & drive: 6.5% (18.2% worse than average)
  • Teens who rarely wear a seat belt: 8.1% (37.3% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatality rate: 19.0 per 100k (59.0% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatalities: 9 per year

#4 – Nebraska

  • Teens who text & drive: 48.3% (23.2% worse than average)
  • Teens who drink & drive: 6.3% (14.5% worse than average)
  • Teens who rarely wear a seat belt: 8.5% (44.1% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatality rate: 20.7 per 100k (73.0% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatalities: 27 per year

#3 – Louisiana

  • Teens who text & drive: 43.0% (9.7% worse than average)
  • Teens who drink & drive: 10.0% (81.8% worse than average)
  • Teens who rarely wear a seat belt: 12.5% (111.9% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatality rate: 17.7 per 100k (48.0% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatalities: 53 per year

#2 – Arkansas

  • Teens who text & drive: 46.2% (17.9% worse than average)
  • Teens who drink & drive: 10.7% (94.5% worse than average)
  • Teens who rarely wear a seat belt: 17.5% (196.6% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatality rate: 14.6 per 100k (22.3% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatalities: 29 per year

#1 – Montana

  • Teens who text & drive: 54.2% (38.3% worse than average)
  • Teens who drink & drive: 7.6% (38.2% worse than average)
  • Teens who rarely wear a seat belt: 7.8% (32.2% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatality rate: 20.5 per 100k (71.4% worse than average)
  • Teen traffic fatalities: 13 per year

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Full Study Results: States with the Deadliest Teen Drivers

RankStateTexting and DrivingDrinking and DrivingRarely Wearing Seat BeltTeen Traffic Fatality Rate (per 100k)Teen Traffic Fatalities
1Montana54.2%7.6%7.8%20.513
2Arkansas46.2%10.7%17.5%14.629
3Louisiana43.0%10.0%12.5%17.753
4Nebraska48.3%6.3%8.5%20.727
5North Dakota52.6%6.5%8.1%199
6Missouri46.4%5.3%9.0%22.689
7Iowa55.2%6.5%6.8%16.335
8Tennessee49.0%N/A8.9%14.461
9Idaho47.0%6.0%7.3%17.321
10South Carolina45.4%7.5%6.8%14.346
11Oklahoma45.7%5.3%8.0%19.752
12Kansas48.0%6.4%5.0%17.535
13Texas39.3%7.1%7.1%13.6273
14West Virginia34.0%5.4%8.9%22.224
15ArizonaN/A6.2%8.1%12.659
16New Mexico39.6%6.5%7.5%12.217
17Florida35.1%5.8%8.0%15.5186
18New Hampshire41.7%5.8%6.9%12.911
19Kentucky34.7%3.9%8.7%20.559
20Pennsylvania37.4%5.0%11.3%8.973
21Utah40.6%2.8%9.5%9.523
22North Carolina38.0%5.4%6.7%14.8100
23Vermont34.1%7.3%N/A7.23
24Wisconsin45.7%5.5%5.9%13.150
25Rhode Island37.3%N/A6.7%118
26Maryland28.1%5.9%N/A10.139
27Massachusetts35.6%5.7%N/A6.228
28Illinois37.1%5.2%N/A1084
29VirginiaN/A5.6%6.4%7.842
30MaineN/A4.3%6.1%15.112
31Colorado35.2%5.3%5.9%15.756
32Delaware45.0%N/A5.5%6.64
33Connecticut33.0%6.3%6.4%5.313
34Michigan39.4%3.7%6.3%8.657
35Alaska28.6%4.3%7.6%4.32
36Nevada31.9%5.0%6.3%8.916
37California34.3%4.9%5.8%8206
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Frequently Asked Questions: Teen Driver Mistakes & Causes of Death

Now that we’ve covered the 15 states with the deadliest teen drivers, let’s get to your frequently asked questions, which include:

  • How many teenage drivers died in 2018?
  • What is the number one killer of teenage drivers?
  • What is the youngest driving age?

Scroll down for the answers to those questions and many more.

#1 – How many teenage drivers died in 2018?

In 2018, about 2,500 teenagers between 13 years old and 19 years old died in motor vehicle accidents with hundreds of thousands being treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered during motor vehicle accidents, according to the CDC.

#2 – What are the risks of teenage driving?

There are many risks associated with teenage driving, such as speeding and teenage driving. The first, and perhaps most obvious risk, though, is lack of experience. Teenagers likely haven’t been exposed to the number of driving situations an adult has, which can lead to handling those situations poorly.

Teenagers are also more likely to take risks while driving than the adult population, including texting and driving, driving after drinking, following too closely, or reckless driving.

#3 – What is the number one killer of teenage drivers?

The number one killer of teenage drivers varies year to year, but the statistics show a consistent pattern: Car crashes are always a leading cause of death among teenagers.

The reasons for this are multifaceted and include lack of experience, texting and driving, drunk driving, risky driving maneuvers, and reckless driving.

#4 – What are the top 10 mistakes new drivers make?

A top ten list of mistakes new drivers make can include:

  1. Being distracted behind the wheel (loud music, interacting with passengers)
  2. Texting and driving
  3. Drinking and driving
  4. Following too closely
  5. Not using signals or other driver communication devices
  6. Not adapting to weather conditions
  7. Not adapting to nighttime conditions
  8. Reckless driving maneuvers
  9. Not keeping their car up to date with repairs
  10. Driving without a seat belt

#5 – How many teenage drunk drivers died?

According to a government source, roughly eight teens die in drunk driving crashes every day. For teenage drivers, drinking and driving is more deadly at every alcohol BAC level compared to adult drivers.

#6 – What age group has a higher fatality rate than 16 or 17-year-olds?

While 16- to 17-year-olds are the most dangerous drivers on the road when it comes to causing injuries to other drivers or deaths to other drivers, it is actually drivers age 80 or above that post the highest risk for traffic deaths.

This is due to numerous reasons, including that older drivers have deteriorating health symptoms, sometimes heavy medication, and other, severe cognitive problems.

#7 – What percentage of 16-year-olds have cars?

While decades ago, around 50 percent of 16-year-olds were licensed to drive, that number has fallen to 25 percent as harsher stipulations and state requirements make it more difficult for a 16-year-old to get a driver’s license.

#8 – Do drivers or passengers die more?

Although it can be difficult to determine whether drivers or passengers die more, the research is clear that passengers in the backseat of the vehicle are less likely to sustain serious injury in a car accident.

#9 – Why the driving age should stay at 16?

Although many states have increased restrictions on teenage drivers or made the requirements for getting a license more difficult, many people still believe that 16-year-olds can grow developmentally from being independent drivers and gain maturity as well.

#10 – How many teens die each year from car crashes?

For the last few years, the number of teen drivers who have died in car crashes has hovered around the 2,000 mark, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recording fewer than 2,000 deaths in 2016 and 2017, but the death toll jumping in 2018.

#11 – What is the youngest driving age?

The youngest driving age in America is 14, which is the age when a teenager can get a learner’s permit. This is only possible in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

#12 – What are the three stages of passing?

While there are some specific rules to passing depending on the circumstances, the general three stages are gauging your environment, passing only when you are legally allowed to and on the left, then returning to the same lane after you have passed the driver.

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Methodology: Determining Deadliest Teen Drivers by State

To identify the states with the most dangerous teenage drivers, a composite score was calculated based on the following factors:

  • Percentage of teens who text and drive
  • Percentage of teens who drink and drive
  • Percentage of teens who rarely wear a seat belt
  • Teen traffic fatality rate per 100k teens

The following data sources were used:

Only states with data from the YRBSS survey were included in the analysis. Ready to find a car insurance quote for you or your teenager? Just enter your ZIP code into our online car insurance quote generator and receive the best car insurance quotes for you or your teenager based on your demographics.