Summer Tragedy: Which States See the Most Teen Driving Fatalities?

 Summer Tragedy: Which States See the Most Teen Driving Fatalities?
Graphic: Nathaniel Blum

As teenagers celebrate the prom, graduation ceremonies and summer school breaks, highway safety officials prepare for a more grim season—the “100 deadliest days” for traffic accidents. 

Young drivers are statistically more likely than other age groups to be involved in fatal accidents. 

As we enter the summer months, analyzed traffic fatalities to estimate which states see a higher likelihood of teen deaths. 

We found Wyoming has the highest percentage of summer teenage driving fatalities—more than half of all teenage driving deaths happen between the months of June and September. Still, no state is immune from the summertime rise in fatal teen accidents: On average nationwide, 37.5% of state teen driving deaths happen during the summer months. 

And when teenage drivers cause fatal accidents, most often the victims are also young people—from 2019 through 2021, 55.6% of victims were 20 years old or younger.

Bumper used historical accident data from the National Highways Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Highway Administration and 2022 fatality estimates from the National Safety Council (NSC) to determine its findings on teen roadway deaths.

Key takeaways

  • Traffic fatalities remain stubbornly high. After declining for decades, road accidents spiked after the pandemic. While the pandemic cleared roadways, it also led to more motorists driving at excessive speeds, one of the leading causes of fatal accidents. The NSC preliminary estimates show traffic fatalities in 2022 totaled 46,270—a 2% decline from 2021, yet 9% higher than 2019. The past two years saw the highest number of roadway deaths in the past 20 years. 
  • Young drivers are much more likely to be in fatal accidents. Teenage drivers account for about one out of every 20 drivers on US roads, yet our estimates show they were involved in nearly 13% of all fatal accidents last year.
  • New Mexico, Kentucky and Mississippi have the highest teen driver fatalities. We estimate New Mexico had the highest rate of fatal accidents among young drivers, with an average of 9.66 fatalities per 10,000 teen drivers, followed by Kentucky (9.41), Mississippi (8.85), North Carolina (7.51) and Arkansas (7.29). 
  • Rhode Island, Minnesota and Massachusetts have the lowest rates of teen driving fatalities. The lowest fatality rate last year was in Rhode Island, with 1.58 fatalities per 10,000 teen drivers, followed by Minnesota (1.75), Massachusetts (2.01), Iowa (2.18) and New Hampshire (2.32).
  • Wyoming, Delaware and Minnesota have the highest percentage of teen driver fatalities during summer months. We estimate Wyoming had the highest rate of fatal crashes last summer, with 56.5% of fatal accidents involving teens occurring from June through September. The second highest summer death rate was Delaware (47.5%) followed by Minnesota (47.4%), Montana (45.9%) and South Dakota (44.6%).
  • Florida, Maine and Kansas have the lowest percentage of teen fatalities during the summer months. We estimate Florida had the lowest percentage of 2022 teen driving fatalities during summer months (31.0%) followed by Maine (31.9%), Kansas (32.5%), Hawaii (33.3%) and Kentucky (33.7%).
  •  ​​​​​​Speeding is the top cause for young driver deaths. Speed is a factor in 39.3% of fatal teen driving accidents, compared to 28.7% of all other age groups. Alcohol is the second leading factor in teen fatal crashes, a factor in 31.8% of accidents, compared to 36.5% of all other age groups. Distracted driving was a factor in 9.2% of fatal teen accidents, slightly higher than other age groups (8.2%).

Related: Teen Driver-Related Deaths Hit 12-Year High in 2020

Teen driver fatality rates for all states


Bumper examined 2019-21 accident data from the National Highways Traffic Safety Administration and 2022 fatality estimates from the National Safety Council to determine its findings. The number of licensed drivers came from 2021 Federal Highway Administration data. While we use teenage and young drivers interchangeably in the study, the NHTSA defines young drivers as between the ages of 15 and 20.

For more information, contact Kerry Sherin ([email protected]) or Sydney Sims ([email protected]).


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About Kevin Voigt

Kevin Voigt is Associate Director of Data Studies. With more than 30 years experience as a reporter, editor and foreign correspondent, he worked as senior homepage editor for International and a reporter for the Wall Street Journal based in Hong Kong. He previously covered mutual funds and cryptocurrency as a senior writer for NerdWallet. He began his career working for local newspapers in Indiana and Ohio, where he won numerous awards for news and feature writing.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.