Study: Idaho among the worst 10 states for teen drivers

By Sarah Glenn

While it doesn’t top the list of the worst offenders, Idaho is not faring well when it comes to teen driving safety and affordability.

A June WalletHub survey ranked Idaho 41 out of 50 states when it examined the best and worst conditions for teen drivers. The survey considered crashes, the cost of insurance for teens, drivers licensing laws, fatalities and the cost of a ticket, among other criteria.

According to a recent AAA Foundation report, 22 Idaho teen drivers were involved in fatal accidents in 2013. In that same year, 27 Idahoans were killed in crashes involving a driver between the ages of 15 and 19. In the eyes of WalletHub’s researchers, this put Idaho in ninth place for the most fatalities nationwide.

According to another recent AAA report, Idaho teens represent 5.6 percent of all drivers but are 2.7 times more likely to crash. Why teens are so high risk is harder to pin down.

“Distracted driving is the first thing that comes to mind,” said Steve Stone, Support Services Captain for the Pocatello Police Department when discussing driving habits teens should be aware of. “When driving one’s entire focus should be on driving and not on other people in the car, the cell phone, food or anything else.”

Stone also highlighted the need for teens to put down the cell phone while behind the wheel, limit the number of people who are in the car, turn down the music and stay constantly aware of what’s going on both nearby and aways down the road.

“Something we’ve noticed is that care should be taken when driving in a new area,” Stone said. “Accidents often happen when people are looking for an entrance, looking for the mall, and then they run a stop sign. It helps to know your roadways before you go.”

A June report from the Allstate Foundation tried to tackle one of the “whys” of teen driving risk and concluded that parent help and intervention is sorely lacking. The report says parents generally think their teens are safer than they really are.

The report found that 79 percent of teens admit to speeding, but only 55 percent of parents believe their teens speed. The discrepancies were similar, if not more stark, when it came to parents awareness of their teens drinking and driving, using a cellphone behind the wheel and getting moving violations.

The Allstate report said that parents can do three things to improve outcomes for safer teen driving: Drive with their teen at least 30 minutes a week, especially in the first year after they are fully licensed; Get familiar with their state Graduated Driver Licensing laws. These laws can help them set their own rules of the road for their teen and; Model good driving behavior on the road by putting away cellphones, buckling up and obeying speed limits.

The WalletHub researchers also delved into the cost of being a teen driver in each state. They compared how much a speeding ticket would cost, how much insurance premiums go up and the average cost of car repairs among other topics. In the cost category, Idaho was right in the middle of the rankings at 25. 

North Dakota was ranked the worst when it came to the number of teen accident fatalities. Connecticut was ranked the best. There are 11 times more teen driver fatalities per 100,000 teens in North Dakota than in Connecticut.

Interesting data from the Allstate Foundation Report:

  • Seventy-nine percent (79 percent) of teens admit to speeding, but only 55 percent of parents believe their teens speed.
  • Ninety-five percent (95 percent) of teens admit to getting a moving violation; only 79 percent of parents believe their teens have committed an offense.
  • Twenty-three percent (23 percent) of teens admit they’ve driven after drinking alcohol and/or using marijuana, but only 7 percent of parents believe their teens have driven under the influence.
  • Eighty-seven percent (87 percent) of teens admit to using cellphones while driving, but only 63 percent of parents say their teens use phones while driving.

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