Though Teen Driving Deaths Declining, Crashes Top Cause of Teen Deaths: Erie Insurance

September 24, 2013

Nearly 16,000 16- to 19-year-olds died in car crashes with another teen behind the wheel from 2007 to 2011. On average, that’s 2,000 fewer teen deaths from the previous five-year period (2006-2010), but the per capita fatal crash rate for this age group remains 35 percent higher than for drivers ages 20 and older. The 2007-2011 range is the most recent five-year period for which data is available*.

These are just some of the findings from Erie Insurance’s second annual exclusive analysis of teen driving death rates. Erie Insurance worked with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to examine crash data from the U.S. Department of Transportation to show state-by-state comparisons of teen crash death rates when teens are behind the wheel.

Wyoming, Montana, Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia had the highest rates of deaths with teens behind the wheel. The District of Columbia, New York, New Jersey, California and Massachusetts had the lowest rates.

Tennessee moved into the list of the top 10 states with the highest death rates with South Dakota moving off. The top 10 states with the lowest death rates remained the same, although some rankings shifted.

The table below shows how the 10 states with the highest and lowest death rates compare year-to-year. Comparison data for all states is available below. For a complete ranking of all states including deadliest days and months, go to

Top 10 States with the Highest Teen Death Rates with Teen Drivers

2007-11 Top Ten
Highest Death Rates
2006-10 Top Ten
Highest Death Rates
1. Wyoming 1. Wyoming
2. Montana 2. Montana
3. Mississippi 3. Mississippi
4. Alabama 4. West Virginia
5. West Virginia 5. Arkansas
6. Oklahoma 6. Alabama
7. Arkansas 7. Oklahoma
8. North Dakota 8. South Dakota+
9. Kentucky 9. Kentucky
10. Tennessee* 10. North Dakota

*Added to top 10 in 2007-11
+Removed from top 10 in 2007-11

Top 10 States with the Lowest Teen Death Rates with Teen Drivers

2007-11 Top Ten
Lowest Death Rates
2006-10 Top Ten
Lowest Death Rates
1. Washington, DC 1. Washington, DC
2. New York 2. New York
3. New Jersey 3. Rhode Island
4. California 4. Massachusetts
5. Massachusetts 5. New Jersey
6. Rhode Island 6. California
7. Hawaii 7. Hawaii
8. Delaware 8. Minnesota
9. Minnesota 9. Connecticut
10. Connecticut 10. Delaware

The new analysis coincides with the launch of the 2013 Erie Insurance Shift program, a driver safety contest designed for teens to share good driving tips and experiences and discourage their peers from engaging in dangerous driving behaviors. The contest awards $20,000 in cash and gift cards to teens and their schools for sharing the safe driving message.

“While our numbers show the average teen driving death rate from 2006-2011 trending down, we’ve also seen preliminary data from the Governors Highway Safety Association showing the 2012 rate creeping up,” said Karen Kraus Phillips, vice president at Erie Insurance. “The bottom line is that one death is too many. Tens of thousands of teen injuries and deaths happen on the road every year and car crashes remain the leading cause of death for this age group. With the Shift contest, our goal is to raise teens’ awareness of dangerous driving behaviors so they adopt safer driving habits to protect themselves and others on the road.”

IIHS notes that state graduated driver licensing laws have helped reduce teen crash rates significantly in recent years, but these laws vary in strength. Research shows that every state could reduce its teen crash rate by adopting stronger GDL laws.

*A report from the Governors Highway Safety Association shows the number of 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths in passenger vehicles increased for the first six months of 2012, based on preliminary data supplied by all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Source: Erie Insurance

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