Best States for Teen Driving Still Have Far to Go in Ensuring Safety

U.S. News and World Report recently posted a list of the best states for teen driving, based on online driver education programs as well as a variety of factors. What's most interesting is that the best state isn't actually a state, and that none of the 51 actually reached a score of 90 or better.

Washington, DC led the way with an 85. This was based on analysis by the media provider of how many teens in each state have their license as a proportion of the youth population, drug and alcohol-related fatalities and legislation that limits teens from assuming responsibility. But it also takes into account the quality of roads, seat belt and cell phone use laws, and even the number of vehicle miles traveled on average.

The District of Columbia earned high marks in all of these, except for driving under the influence laws, which dropped its rating below an "A." Populous states like California, Illinois and New Jersey also made the top ten, but received poor marks in teen driving license laws in Illinois' case, and DUI legislation for the Garden State.

While the ratings may seem stringent, the safety experts interviewed by the newspaper suggest that the safety of new drivers depends on many facets, and that not keeping up to date with new legislation or programs can have a deleterious impact on safety. North and South Dakota, for reference, finished at the bottom of the pack with scores of 42.86 and 41.72, respectively. Their scores reflected poor marks in almost every category that the paper used.

The fact that so many states still have myriad ways to make roads safer shouldn't make parents threatened or concerned about the quality of driver education programs. Whether it's classroom-based or through an online driving school, teens still need to be able to understand how to operate vehicles in a variety of conditions.

What it does suggest, however, is that parents and students can both make efforts to call lawmakers and ask for more stringent policies regarding three safety concerns ranked high by nearly every organization: cell phone use, substance use and seatbelt use. Each has data linked to drastically reducing the number of traffic incidents, as well as the number of fatalities that result.

More importantly, most state legislatures are in session and considering laws that govern these exact issues. It may seem calculated, but most are also facing extreme budget deficits and may want to find ways to drum up revenue and decrease poor driving habits at the same time.

Driving education is important, but for some teens the best motivation to not engage in these behaviors is the threat of a strict penalty or needing to find a penalty to reduce points on their license. As the report shows, there are a variety of options for parents to choose from in their respective states. The data shows, too, that the net result is fewer lives lost on the road by younger motorists.