Got a young-un learning to drive this summer? Gulp. We feel ya. While it’s a rite of passage for millions of teenagers around the country, the words "teen drivers" are enough to make a parent shudder in their (mom) boots.
But if you live in New York state, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland or Washington, you can breathe a little easier. Those states are the safest for teen drivers, according to WalletHub, a personal finance website.
The money experts analyzed the teen-driving environment in all 50 states by zeroing in on safety, economic environment and driving laws. They looked at the number of teen-driver deaths to average cost of car repairs to presence of impaired-driving laws.
Rounding out the top-10 safest states for teen drivers are Louisiana, California, Delaware, New Jersey and Georgia. Montana comes in 50th place as the worst state for teenagers behind the wheel, with Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming on its heels.
Parents Play a Part
While motor-vehicle accidents continue to be the main cause of death among 16- to 19-year-olds, the financial gurus behind the study say there is a lot parents, caregivers and newbie drivers can do to stay safe.
One of the best things a new driver can do is simply log a ton of hours in the driver’s seat. Shea Riggsbee Denning, professor of public law and government in the School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says most novice drivers don’t have enough practical experience behind the wheel when they are first licensed. "So let your teenager drive," she says, "even when the weather is bad, it is dark, traffic is heavy; [whether] the road is an interstate or the road is rural. New drivers need to experience the situations and events that may occur only rarely, but that require an appropriate response from a driver to avoid a crash." Most crashes, she continues, are the result of inexperience.
For Lisa Brugato, a mother of two in Portland, Oregon, teaching her 15-year-old daughter, Sofia, to drive is both nerve-wracking and empowering.
"She has an excellent sense of direction and is very observant in general, so that helps me to be more confident with her driving ability," she says.
Her daughter has been driving for about four months, and Lisa says they always talk a lot about the perils of distracted driving — from "music [being] too loud, eating while driving, [talking or texting on] the phone" — to situational driving and driving defensively. Sofia is getting schooled in the ways of the road by a number of people, including her grandmother, her aunt and her friend’s mom. Those varied experiences — and lots of drive time — may give her a leg up when she becomes a licensed driver this fall.
And even though she is nervous about her daughter driving solo on the open road, she says she has faith Sofia is responsible and mature enough to tackle the task.
Another plus? Getting a break on carpool duties. Finally.