The Deadliest States for Teen Drivers

The Deadliest States for Teen Drivers

America's roads are a dangerous place for teen drivers, with 6,376 motorists between 16 and 19 years old dying as a result of traffic accidents from 2013 to 2017. However, some areas of the country proved to be much more deadly than others, with the five deadliest states accounting for a disproportionate amount of deaths relative to their populations. These states— Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Montana and West Virginia—were the site of 10% of teen driver deaths while only being home to 6% of the nation’s licensed drivers 19 years old or younger.

Our study also found that teenage male drivers were more than 2.5 times as likely to be killed in a car accident than their female counterparts. Additionally, we determined that the summer months are the most deadly time of year for this demographic—with nearly 30% of fatalities occurring from June to August.

Heat map of the most dangerous states for teen drivers.

1. Kentucky

3.47 annual teen driver deaths per 10,000 licensed teen drivers

Kentucky is the deadliest state for teen drivers, with 128 fatalities from 2013 to 2017. Teen motorists in this state are 16% more likely to die in a car crash than those in Mississippi—the second most deadly state—and 140% more so than the average U.S. teen. This high rate of serious car accidents for this demographic could be a contributing factor to the high insurance costs for young drivers in this state, as rates in this state are the fourth most expensive in the country for student auto insurance.

2. Mississippi

3.00 annual teen driver deaths per 10,000 licensed teen drivers

With an average annual rate of 3.00 teen driver deaths per 10,000 licensed drivers 19 years old or younger, Mississippi is twice as deadly—on a per capita basis—than the average across the U.S. There were only six fewer teen driver deaths in Mississippi than there were in Tennessee, 167 compared to 173, which is a state with more than twice as many licensed drivers 19 years old or younger.

3. North Carolina

2.36 annual teen driver deaths per 10,000 licensed teen drivers

In 2017, there were 42 teen driver deaths in North Carolina, which is 23 more than there were in New York—a state with 42% more licensed teenagers. Our study revealed that North Carolina teen drivers are 59% more likely to be killed in a car accident than those in South Carolina.

4. Montana

2.30 annual teen driver deaths per 10,000 licensed teen drivers

The Treasure State is one of the most deadly in the nation for drivers aged 16 to 19. Montana motorists in this age range were 60% more likely to die in a car crash than the national average. This is more bad news for this state's drivers, as we previously found this state to be the deadliest for drunk driving accidents.

5. West Virginia

2.20 annual teen driver deaths per 10,000 licensed teen drivers

Our survey revealed that West Virginia teen drivers are more than 50% more likely to die in a fatal car crash than their Virginia counterparts. Furthermore, teenage boys in the Mountain State are particularly at risk, as young male drivers were involved in these crashes at a rate more than two times that of the young women in the state—with 42 deaths compared to 18.

States With the Greatest Change

Across the entire U.S. the number of annual teen driver fatalities has increased from 1,127 fatalities in 2013 compared to 1,310 in 2017—a difference of 16%. Additionally, 30 states saw more teen driver deaths over this span, with Delaware, New Mexico and Rhode Island having the largest percentage increase. Conversely, 17 states actually saw a decrease in the number of teen fatalities, with Wyoming, Connecticut and Hawaii leading this group with a combined 77% decline.

A graph of the states with the greatest increase and decrease in teen driver fatality rate from 2013 to 2017.

Male Teens Are More At-Risk Than Female Teens

Our study found, overwhelmingly, that young men drivers died in traffic accidents more than their female counterparts—with male teens accounting for 72% of the fatalities we surveyed. In fact, in Vermont all nine of the teenage drivers that were killed in car accidents from 2013 to 2017 were male. Over the time period we surveyed, only Alaska saw more female teen driver deaths than male teen driver deaths: with seven female compared to five male teen driver fatalities.

Graph of the two states with the highest and the two states with the lowest ratio of male teen driver deaths to female teen driver deaths and the national average.

What Time of Year Is the Worst for Teen Traffic Deaths?

Our study revealed that summer months accounted for the greatest number of teen driver fatalities. We found August to be the month with the single greatest number of teen driver fatalities, with 630 deaths during the time period we considered. This is 70% greater than the number of teen motorist fatalities that occurred in February during this time span: 371 deaths.

Graph comparing the number of average teen driver deaths per day for each month.

Full List of States

Teen driver deaths from 2013-2017
Licensed drivers age 19 or younger
Average annual fatalities per 10,000 licensed drivers age 19 or younger
3North Carolina267226,6472.36
5West Virginia6054,4422.20
7North Dakota3128,6252.17
8New Mexico5454,7071.97
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We collected data on the number of drivers of the age 16 to 19 that were fatality injured in a car accident as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Our figures did not include vehicle occupant, pedestrian or cyclist fatalities. Fatal accidents that occurred in the District of Columbia during this time period (there were three) counted toward the Nationwide figures. Licensing figures were from 2017, the most recent available, and were sourced from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.

Bailey is a Research Analyst at ValuePenguin, covering insurance. He graduated from Occidental College with a B.A. in Mathematics and a minor in Computer Science. Bailey's analysis of the insurance industry and driver behaviors has been featured by CNBC, the Houston Chronicle and the National Transportation Bureau Safety Board.

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