While you should always make it a point to drive carefully on any highway (no texting!), there are a few states where you should be extra careful because they have more dangerous highways than others.
However, before you venture out to any highway anywhere, make sure you have the right coverage!
Instead of throwing together table after table for you to decipher, we ranked all 50 continental states in each metric.
Fifty is the worst rank.
We combined all the different rankings and ranked each state by its total score using data from the following sources:
- Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate: 2000 to 2009
- Interstate Mileage: from Interstate-Guide.com and Census.gov
- Percentage of Drivers without Seatbelts: Averages of Surveys from 2003 to 2010
- Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient: 2011 Ratings
- Highway Deaths per 1000 Miles Traveled (on Highways): Totals from 2000 to 2009
- Highway Miles Driven: Totals from 2008 to 2009
- Federal Funding: 2009 Highway Trust Fund
- IIHS Death Rates: Averages from 2005 to 2010
- Highway Bridges: Explanation of the structurally deficient and functionally obsolete
The Top 10 Most Dangerous Highways
Who made Top 10 for states with the most dangerous highways? You might be surprised!
Here’s the list, starting with number 10 (The complete rankings table is at the bottom of the page):
#10 – Idaho
Best Ranking Factor: Federal Funding (11th)
Worst Ranking Factor: Highway Deaths per 1000 Highway Miles Traveled (45th)
The interstates in Idaho were ranked more on the safer side, but the same can’t be said for the rest of the highways there.
Idaho ranks 45th in Highway Deaths per 1000 Highway Miles Driven and fared worse than average in three of the remaining four categories. Even though it’s the fifth least populated state, more room on the road doesn’t necessarily mean more safety!
#9 – Tennessee
Best Ranking Factor: Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient (16th)
Worst Ranking Factor: Federal Funding (42nd)
Tennessee’s highway bridges rank fairly well at 16, and that may have hurt them in that they didn’t receive a lot from the Highway Trust Fund. However, there is no excuse for their poor performance in the other ranking criteria.
There is never a good reason for riding without a seatbelt. Unfortunately, a consistently high annual IIHS Death Rate landed Tennessee in the #9 spot.
# 8 – Arizona
Best Ranking Factor: Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient (4th)
Worst Ranking Factor: Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate (46th)
Arizona landed in the bottom seven in three categories: Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate, Highway Deaths per 1000 Highway Miles Driven, and Federal Funding. Evidently, some of the most up-to-date bridges do not mean better safety ratings overall.
#7 – Kentucky
Best Ranking Factor: Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate (15th)
Worst Ranking Factor: Percentage of Drivers Without Seatbelts (45th)
Kentucky drivers may be taking their safe interstates for granted, as they’re 45th in the nation when it comes to the easiest category to improve in: wearing seatbelts. Perhaps this issue has something to do with their consistently high IIHS Death Rates, since “wearing a seatbelt can reduce the risk of crash injuries by 50 percent.”
#6 – Wyoming
Best Ranking Factor: Federal Funding (2nd)
Worst Ranking Factor: IIHS Death Rates (50th)
If you’ve ever driven in Wyoming, you’ve most likely seen the incredible wide open spaces and breathtaking mountains. Maybe the mountains are a little too distracting, considering Wyoming ranks 50th for average IIHS Death Rates and 49th for Highway Deaths per 1000 Highway Miles Driven.
You’d think this might encourage Wyoming drivers to use their seatbelts more, and hopefully, they will improve their rank in that category in the future.
#5 – Mississippi
Best Ranking Factor: Federal Funding (18th)
Worst Ranking Factor: IIHS Death Rates (49th)
Wyoming residents can comfort themselves knowing that drivers in Mississippi actually use their seatbelts even less than they do.
Mississippi lands right in the middle of the pack for our middle three categories, but the high-speeding fatalities on their interstates and #49 rank in the IIHS Death Rate averages (second only to their Wyoming friends) mean Mississippi is right in the middle of the best of the worst.
#4 – Louisiana
Best Ranking Factor: Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate (18th)
Worst Ranking Factor: Highway Deaths per 1000 Miles Traveled & IIHS Death Rates (41st in both)
Louisiana is another one on our list with relatively safe interstates and more dangerous smaller highways, but drivers from the Pelican state just aren’t measuring up well when it comes to wearing seatbelts! Being in the bottom ten of three categories is enough to push Louisiana up to #4.
#3 – Alabama
Best Ranking Factor: Federal Funding (14th)
Worst Ranking Factor: IIHS Death Rates (47th)
Continuing the Southern trend of our Top Five, Alabama is #40 in Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate, which is not the worst category for Alabama. They are #47 for IIHS Death Rate averages, not to mention the bottom fifteen in bridge ratings and highway deaths.
#2 – Florida
Best Ranking Factor: Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient (5th)
Worst Ranking Factor: Federal Funding (49th)
Florida was hurt by the lack of federal funding here (#49), but the other rankings were not so spectacular either. Only four other states (New Mexico, Alaska, Wyoming, and Montana) rank worse for Highway Deaths per 1000 Highway Miles Driven. Even with some of the best-rated bridges in the nation, dangerous highways are a major concern for Florida.
#1 – South Carolina
Best Ranking Factor: Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient (33rd)
Worst Ranking Factor: IIHS Death Rate (46th)
The dubious honor of “State with the Most Dangerous Highways” goes to South Carolina, the only state in our Top 10 to rank in the bottom half of every single category.
It wasn’t even close! South Carolina finished a full 37 points ahead of Florida in total score! Could South Carolina’s lack of cell phone bans while driving be to blame?
Points of Interest from Study
– Most States Can Be Proud of at Least One Category
Even Florida and Arizona — both among the worst ten states — have some of the best highway bridges in the nation. Minnesota and Iowa, the two safest states, rank in the safest ten across three categories! Even so, there’s always room for improvement.
–The Worst States Tend to Ignore Their Seatbelts, Regardless of the Laws
The best ranking of any of the Top 10 in the seatbelt category is Arizona coming in at number 20, even though tickets can be issued solely for driving without a seatbelt in seven of those states. Seatbelts save lives, and everyone in the car should be buckled in.
– The Five Most Dangerous States Are in the South
We have nothing against southern states, but a number of them rank high in our previous “Worst Drivers” study. As stated earlier, you’re still allowed to text and drive in South Carolina (even young drivers), and Florida highways — with similarly loose restrictions — rank second place for Most Dangerous.
What about the safest five? They’re all relatively close together in the upper Midwest.
Remember to compare car insurance quotes before you find yourself on a dangerous road!
– To sort table by category, click on header columns.
|State||Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate||Percent of Drivers w/o Seatbelts||Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient||Highway Deaths per 1,000 Highway Miles Traveled||Federal Funding||IIHS Death Rates||Total Score||Rank|