Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University.
Zaneta has prepared technical p...
Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida.
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With 1.3 million people dying in traffic accidents each year and that death count on the rise, we have a serious safety concern on our hands.
That’s why our researchers compiled over 8,500 data points using the leading resources: NHSTA “crashstats,” FARS totals, the reports published by the U.S. DOT and FHWA, as well as the IIHS “Fatality Facts” to see what’s causing all these unnecessary deaths in our country.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia were ranked according to six complex, statistic-based factors explained in detail here.
Read on to find out which states have the most dangerous highways and what’s making them so treacherous.
Best Ranking: Death Rate – 19th Worst Ranking: Federal Funding – 41st
Over a decade ago, Colorado’s transportation situation was considered a “quiet crisis.”
Ranking in the worst half of the U.S. for speeding deaths, failing to wear seat belts, unsafe highway bridges, number of fatal crashes, and lack of federal funding.
Colorado’s crisis is far from a quiet one today. According to The Denver Post, “Declining revenues coupled with booming population growth has put the state’s motorists on a collision course with potholes and congestion.”
The Colorado DOT estimates that $9 billion will be needed over the next ten years for highway repairs, and so far only $1.9 billion has been approved for this crucial maintenance.
Hopefully Colorful Colorado will invest the necessary greenbacks so the colors it’s known for don’t include bloodshed on its neglected highways.
Best Ranking: Death Rate – 2nd Worst Ranking (Tie): Highway Bridges & Federal Funding – 50th
Massachusetts ranks in the top three worst states in America for failing to wear seat belts, having unsafe highway bridges, and for getting insufficient federal funding.
The U.S. DOT’s Federal Highway Administration has classified 51-70 percent of Massachusetts’ bridges as “deficient” for 24 consecutive years now.
While many states gets half of their highway spending from federal aid, Massachusetts only gets 21.5 percent, which means there isn’t much hope for all those unsafe roadways.
Fortunately despite this lack of funding, the Bay State has managed to keep traffic fatalities at bay. Massachusetts had 306 people killed in car crashes out of its 6.8 million residents, which was the lowest death rate for any state—beat only by D.C.
Best Ranking: Federal Funding – 8th Worst Ranking: Fatal Crashes – 44th
Comparing West Virginia and Massachusetts’ dangerous highways prove that money doesn’t solve all problems.
Since 2011, West Virginia has gotten an annual average of 25 cents per resident in federal funding for highway improvements, which makes Massachusetts’ nine cents a person average, seem like a bad joke.
Sadly, the $2.3 million the government deposited into West Virginia’s highway trust fund from 2011-2015 didn’t stop the 1,548 people from being killed in car crashes those very same years.
The Mountain State’s problems don’t end there. West Virginia is ranked in the worst half of the U.S. for interstate speeding deaths (37th), failure to wear seat belts (26th), poor highway bridges (32nd), and its per capita death rate (43rd).
Best Ranking: Federal Funding – 4th Worst Ranking: Death Rate – 50th
Montana gets even more help than West Virginia from the federal government with maintaining its highways.
From 2011 to 2015, Montana got an average of 43 cents a person in highway federal funding, which allowed for over 64 percent of its total highway spending to come from federal aid.
Like we saw with West Virginia, all that money didn’t keep Montana’s death rate down. From 2011 to 2015, Montana had 1,059 people killed in car crashes.
Ranked 48th in the U.S. for not wearing seat belts, Montana residents aren’t doing their part to keep themselves safe either. Which is why the Montana MythCrashers made a funny, yet inspirational video with the message: “Seat belts are as important as life itself.”
Hopefully , Montana residents will take that lesson to heart, because like he explains in the video:
“There’s no way you’re going to be able to brace yourself in an accident. At just 35 mph you’ll be hitting at the same force as if you jumped off a four story building.”
#5 – North Carolina
Best Ranking: Fatal Crashes – 17th Worst Ranking: Federal Funding – 44th
NC Vision Zero – an initiative to eliminate traffic deaths and injuries in North Carolina. Take the vision zero pledge here.
Booze it & Lose It – a 23-year-old campaign aimed at stopping drunk driving especially around Labor Day, which has had great success with alcohol-related highway deaths—down 23 percent since 2016.
BeSmarterThanThat.com – a website created by the NCDOT dedicated to keeping those impaired by alcohol out of the driver seat. This site makes it easy to establish a designated driver in advance or quickly find a ride home after drinking. It also includes videos and posts explaining why drinking and driving is never worth it.
“A keystone is a central wedge in an arch that locks all other pieces of an arch in place. It is the part of an arch that all other parts depend upon.”
Every year since 2011, Pennsylvania has had at least 37 percent of its highway bridges rated as deficient by the Federal Highway Administration.
The Keystone State seems to be missing some highway bridge keystones.
Even Pennsylvania’s best ranking factor in our study (Death Rate: 22nd) has great need for improvement. On average, an alarming 1,240 people have been killed on this state’s public roads every year since 2011.
As you can see in the graphic Arizona police chase footage above, crashes that involve speeding greatly intensify the sustained injuries and risk of death.
Most of the drivers in the Grand Canyon State aren’t fleeing officers and cruising on the wrong side of the road while also speeding, but what we all need to remember is that speeding alone is enough to cause a horrific crash that kills people.
On a more positive note, only 11 percent of Arizona’s bridges were determined deficient in 2015.
Click here to enjoy a fascinating time lapse video of the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge (pictured above) being built from 2006 to 2010.
#2 – South Carolina
Best Ranking: Seat Belt Use – 20th Worst Ranking: Death Rate – 47th
Our study revealed major safety concerns for the Palmetto State that are much scarier than the cockroach who invades homes in this state and even has the same name.
In 2015 alone, South Carolina had 977 total people killed in traffic accidents, and 361 (37 percent) of those deaths were caused by a driver who was speeding. This is a rate of 20 people killed in car crashes for every 100,000 residents.
It’s wonderful that from 2011 to 2015 an average of 89.96 percent of South Carolina residents wore their seat belts.
The devastating reality is that seat belts can’t solve South Carolina’s deadly highway problems. The data shows that despite South Carolinian’s dedication to buckling up over the years, people are still dying on these roads at astronomical rates.
#1 – Louisiana
Best Ranking: Federal Funding – 19th Worst Ranking: Fatal Crashes – 47th
For the second year in-a-row Louisiana has had the Most Dangerous Highways in the entire United States.
Like in Montana and West Virginia, increased Federal Funding hasn’t been enough to solve Louisiana’s highway problems.
Even with an average of 16 cents per resident given each year in Federal Aid towards road improvements from 2011-2015, Louisiana’s highways are still the deadliest in America.
It’s too bad people can’t fly around like the birds in the Pelican State, because with 726 people killed in car accidents in 2015 alone, driving on Louisiana’s roads is no picnic.
This Most Dangerous Highways study isn’t the only one Louisiana is the star of. Louisiana has also landed on our Worst Drivers in America countdown every year. In 2011, 2013, and 2016 our detailed studies found Louisiana to be home to our nation’s worst drivers.
As you can see in the above news clip, America’s Most Dangerous Highways mixed with the Worst Drivers of the nation equals a recipe for deadly disaster.
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Points of Interest
Only four states from this Worst list ranked in the top 10 in the U.S. for a category Best, here they are:
Arizona: Highway Bridges – 9th
Massachusetts: Death Rate – 2nd
Montana: Federal Funding – 4th
West Virginia: Federal Funding – 8th
Before we start the celebrations, lets realize that those four states having such good “Best Rankings” means they had exceptionally bad “Worst Rankings” to give them total scores that landed them here. And, two of those above Bests are just how much money they get from the U.S. government.
It’s also important to see which factors make the highways in these ten states so dangerous, and which ones are their saving grace.
Seat Belt Use
1 Best: South Carolina 20th
2 Worst: Arizona 45th & Texas 47th
2 Best: Arizona 9th & Texas 11th
2 Worst: Pennsylvania 47th & Massachusetts 50th
1 Best: N. Carolina 17th
3 Worst: W. Virginia 44th, Arizona 45th & Louisiana 47th
3 Best: Montana 4th, W. Virginia 8th & Louisiana 19th
3 Worst: Colorado 41st, N. Carolina 44th & Massachusetts 50th
A low death rate and federal aid were the greatest strengths, while insufficient federal funding and a high number of fatal crashes were the greatest weaknesses for the ten states on this list.
This study also reveals the effects Federal Funding has on our nation’s highways, but not always the way you would expect. This government aid is a highly-debated topic that will likely see considerable change under our new president.
They also mention, “The administration’s 2018 budget proposes new directions for transportation policy, including cutting regulations to speed the completion of projects and attracting more private financing for infrastructure investments.”
Highway Safety Tips
No amount of research, studies, campaigns, or initiatives can bring about change like you can behind the wheel.Highway safety starts with you.
The drivers controlling their vehicles are who hold the most power when it comes to the safety of our nation’s roads.
Top 12 Dos and Don’ts to Avoid an Accident
(Click the below links to find the Whys & How Tos)