The 10 most dangerous (and 10 safest) states for learning to drive

A study of fatal crashes involving inexperienced drivers has revealed the most dangerous U.S. states for those just getting behind the wheel. It found that Kentucky leads the nation in traffic deaths involving learner’s permit holders — at 2.21% of total fatal crashes.

The study, conducted by law firm Bader Scott, looked at crash data from the National National Highway Traffic Safety Administration between 2017 and 2021. It defines “learner driver” as those holding a learner’s permit.

While Kentucky had the highest percentage, the actual number of new driver fatalities was 119 out of a total of 5,392 fatal crashes during the five-year span. Texas had the most fatal crashes of any state in that period, 27,392 total. Of those, 328 involved learner’s permit holding drivers. Percentage-wise, that’s 1.20%, putting the Lone Star State 10th on the list.

While the numbers of deaths on this list are in some cases in single digits, the fact that there are fatalities at all is sobering, given that a learner driver by law has an experienced driver at their elbow and is likely driving slowly and cautiously.

The 10 most dangerous states for learner drivers

  1. Kentucky: 119 learner’s permit holding drivers involved in a fatal crash (2.21% of total fatal crashes in the state)
  2. Massachusetts: 44 (1.78%)
  3. District of Columbia: 4 (1.75%)
  4. Colorado: 79 (1.72%)
  5. Alaska: 7 (1.50%)
  6. Vermont: 6 (1.40%)
  7. New York: 89 (1.29%)
  8. Alabama: 81 (1.24%)
  9. Connecticut: 24 (1.21%)
  10. Texas: 328 (1.20%)

The study also found that the country roads of West Virginia were the safest, The Mountain State reported zero fatal crashes involving a learner’s permit holder. Next safest were South Carolina and Louisiana, which reported one fatality each. California followed in fourth place with nine new driver fatalities, despite the state’s high population and car-centric culture.

The 10 safest states for learner drivers

  1. West Virginia: 0 (0.00%)
  2. South Carolina: 1 (0.01%)
  3. Louisiana: 1 (0.02%)
  4. California: 9 (0.03%)
  5. North Carolina: 9 (0.08%)
  6. Tennessee: 8 (0.10%)
  7. New Hampshire: 1 (0.13%)
  8. Arizona: 10 (0.14%)
  9. Hawaii: 1 (0.15%)
  10. New Jersey: 9 (0.21%)

Overall traffic fatalities are down nationwide as of the first half of 2023, the most recent data the NHTSA has available. While individual states have seen a slight uptick, the general trend is moving in the right direction.