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Minnesota ranks among the best at keeping teenage drivers safe, according to an analysis of all states and the District of Columbia, but it also placed three of Minnesota's neighbors at the bottom.

The report, published by the online-only U.S. News & World Report and released Thursday with help from Allstate Insurance, gave Minnesota high marks for seat-belt and drunken-driving enforcement, as well as an "excellent" rating for laws addressing distracted driving. However, it also noted that the state does not require motorcycle riders to wear helmets.

Joining Minnesota in the top 10, in order: the District of Columbia, California, Colorado, Maryland, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah and Washington state.

As for other Upper Midwest states, Wisconsin was 41st, Iowa 49th, North Dakota 50th and South Dakota 51st.

The magazine said that South Dakota allows teenagers to drive at 14 and "has some of the nation's more lax laws regarding driving while intoxicated or distracted."

"The rankings don't adequately reflect highway safety in South Dakota," says James Carpenter, director of the state Office of Highway Safety.

South Dakota's laws aren't necessarily as weak as the rankings would suggest, he said. "If you are arrested in South Dakota for a DUI, you give blood," Carpenter said. "We're trying to get these people off the road before they get to the point of being in a fatal car crash." That's a tougher standard than many states have for blood draws in the event of highway crashes, he said.

South Dakota does issue driver licenses at age 14, but it has a graduated system that includes strict supervision of the young driver, with increasing freedom as the teen-ager demonstrates driving skill and judgment.

The full state rankings, including the methodology, are available at In producing the rankings, researchers reviewed comprehensive government statistics on teen driving as well as a range of factors specifically affecting young drivers.

"Car crashes are the leading cause of death among teens today," said U.S. News editor Brian Kelly. "By compiling the most critical information on driving safety, [the ranking] can raise awareness among families and help them address safety concerns with their teenage drivers."

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482