Ask the Experts
Although teens are responsible for their own actions, parents shoulder much of the emotional and financial consequences when things go south. In areas where teen deaths resulting from car crashes are most prevalent, it’s also up to lawmakers to implement programs and policies to reduce those numbers. For additional insight and advice, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
- What tips do you have for parents of teen drivers?
- What is the biggest risk that teen drivers face?
- What tips do you have for minimizing the costs (insurance, etc.) associated with having a teen driver in the household?
- Should we increase the age at which an individual is eligible for a license to 18?
- What should policymakers do to increase the safety of teen drivers?
What tips do you have for parents of teen drivers?
First, perfect practice makes perfect. Try to practice driving with your teen driver in a variety of driving situations and environments. You want to expose them to as many driving scenarios as possible. If you consistently practice driving the same route when there is perfect weather, when your teen driver encounters something different — for example, a highway, a busy downtown area with pedestrians, or heavy rain — they will not know what to do. Yet, these new environments tend to present the greatest crash risk for teen drivers.
Second, if you are able, try to have your teen driver in the safest (and newest) vehicle possible. Newer vehicles have advanced technology that can mitigate crashes.
Last, model appropriate driving behavior for your children. Children as young as 2 or 3 notice what you are doing while driving and as they get older, they will emulate your habits. If you frequently use a cell phone while driving, do not wear your seat belt, etc., your teen driver will do the same. It is not enough to just tell them what to do - you have to practice it as well.
What is the biggest risk that teen drivers face?
The biggest risk for all drivers continues to be not wearing a seat belt or being under the influence while driving. In addition to these two risks, for teen drivers, the big risks are distracted driving and speeding.
Teens get distracted by technology, objects external to the vehicle (e.g., a billboard), as well as passengers in the car. To prevent distracted driving, have rules in place, set consequences for breaking the rules, and model the correct behavior. Another option is to use cell phone blocking applications.
Regarding speeding, the faster the vehicle is moving, the longer it takes the vehicle to stop in the case of an emergency. To prevent speeding, have your teen drive the family car versus their own personal vehicle — teens speed less when they know they are in a shared vehicle.
What tips do you have for minimizing the costs (insurance, etc.) associated with having a teen driver in the household?
Make sure your teen driver attends a driver education class or completes a supplemental training program, which usually helps reduce insurance costs. Supplemental training programs are available from insurance companies, automobile manufacturers, as well as local high schools or colleges.
Another way to reduce costs is to install a device in their car that records driving activity, e.g., their speed, GPS coordinates, etc. Some devices are available from your insurance company or can be installed directly on your teen’s phone.
Should we increase the age at which an individual is eligible for a license to 18?
All 50 states + DC have graduated driver licensing systems in place and most do not allow for a full license until 18. Teen drivers may receive provisional/limited licenses at a younger age — for example, 16 — but they have restrictions, e.g., they cannot drive with a teen passenger or they cannot drive at night. These graduated licensing systems are effective at reducing teen driver crashes and fatalities, provided they abide by the guidelines.
What should policymakers do to increase the safety of teen drivers?
Policymakers should continue to advocate for policies that have been proven to be scientifically effective at reducing teen driver crashes — graduated driver licensing systems, teen driver training programs, driving monitoring systems, advanced vehicle technology, and parental/guardian involvement.
In order to determine the best and worst states for teen drivers, WalletHub analyzed the teen-driving environment in the 50 states across three key dimensions: 1) Safety, 2) Economic Environment and 3) Driving Laws.
We evaluated those dimensions using 23 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for teen drivers. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), the square root of the population was used to calculate the “Number of Residents” in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across states.
We then determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
Safety – Total Points: 50
- Teen Driver Fatalities per 100,000 Teens: Double Weight (~8.00 Points)
- Vehicle Miles Traveled per Capita: Half Weight (~2.00 Points)
- Traffic Indiscipline: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
- Note: This is a composite metric that measures incidents due to poor behavior: phone use, speeding, aggressive acceleration, harsh braking, and poor turning.
- Teen “Under the Influence” Traffic Violations per 100,000 Teens: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
- Share of Teen Drinking & Driving: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
- Share of Teen Texting/Emailing While Driving: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
- Share of Teenagers Aged 18 to 24 Always or Nearly Always Wearing a Seatbelt: Double Weight (~8.00 Points)
- Cost of Teen Crash-Related Deaths per 100,000 Teens: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
- Quality of Roads: Double Weight (~8.00 Points)
- Driving Schools per Capita*: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
Economic Environment – Total Points: 20
- Maximum Cost of Speeding Ticket: Half Weight (~1.33 Points)
- Maximum Cost of Red-Light Ticket: Half Weight (~1.33 Points)
- Maximum Amount of First-Offense Fines for Not Wearing Seat Belt: Half Weight (~1.33 Points)
- Premium Increase After Adding Teen Driver to Parent’s Auto-Insurance Policy: Double Weight (~5.33 Points)
- Average Cost of Car Repairs: Full Weight (~2.67 Points)
- Average Gas Prices: Double Weight (~5.33 Points)
- Punitiveness of Insurance Companies Toward High-Risk Drivers: Full Weight (~2.67 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “States with the Highest & Lowest Insurance-Premium Penalties for High-Risk Drivers” ranking.
Driving Laws – Total Points: 30
Provision of Teen Driver's Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program Laws: Full Weight (~6.00 Points)
Presence of Occupant-Protection Laws: Full Weight (~6.00 Points)
Presence of Impaired-Driving Laws: Half Weight (~3.00 Points)
Presence of Distracted-Driving/Texting-While-Driving Laws: Full Weight (~6.00 Points)
Presence of Red-Light & Speeding-Camera Laws: Half Weight (~3.00 Points)
Leniency Toward DUI Violations: Full Weight (~6.00 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Strictest & Most Lenient States on DUI” ranking.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, EverQuote, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Road Information Program, CarMD, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, CarInsurance.com, the Governors Highway Safety Association, American Automobile Association and WalletHub research.