Most Dangerous Highways by State (New Data)

Here's what you need to know...
  • Highway traffic accidents caused 15,870 deaths in 2017 in the U.S. alone
  • Speeding caused 1,293 of those deaths on American highways in 2017
  • In 2017, there were 4,938 structurally deficient U.S. highway bridges
  • The U.S. traffic death rate is 12.5 people killed for every 100k residents
  • The average federal funding for U.S. highways is only 18 cents a resident

Ever bounced in your airplane seat feeling your heart pound and thought, “It’s going down. I’m gonna die!”?

Even those who don’t have an elevated (pun intended) fear of flying, have to admit it’s scary being seven miles up in the air. Not much good could happen if something goes wrong. Hate to break it to you, but hands down, driving is more dangerous.

Here’s some cold-hard stats to prove it:

 
Accidents
(every 100 Mil Miles)
Deaths & Injuries
(every 100 Mil Miles)
Odds of Dying
(in Your Lifetime)
DRIVING
5 million +
1.27 Deaths
80 Injuries
1 in 98
FLYING
20
0 Deaths
5 Injuries
1 in 7,178

And here’s 25 more reasons you should be more afraid of driving:

Alrighty, driving is clearly more dangerous than the general public gives it credit for. If people really took into consideration that they had such a high likelihood of dying by car crash would drivers be multiplying those odds by staring down at their phones so often?! No, I don’t think so.

We all can admit that driving can be deadly (I mean check out these videos) and certain conditions and behaviors make it all the more dangerous. Let’s take a look at which states have the most dangerous highways and pinpoint what’s causing them to be claiming so many lives.

The 10 States with the Most Dangerous Highways

This is our fifth time analyzing traffic accidents in all 50 states plus D.C. to determine where the deadliest roads run. To complete this study we complied five years of data from NHTSA’s Crash Stats, IIHS’s Fatality Facts, and the U.S. DOT’s Federal Highway Administration in the following six categories:

  1. Speeding Fatalities
  2. Statewide Seat Belt Use
  3. Deficient Highway Bridges
  4. Highway Fatal Crashes
  5. Highway Federal Funding
  6. Per Capita Death Rates

All 51 areas were ranked in each of the above categories. Those individual rankings were added up to create a total score. Our scoring goes as follows:

  • Highest Rankings (1st – 10th)  = Ten Worst
  • High Rankings = Low Total Scores
  • Lowest Total Scores = Deadliest Highways

Click here for our full ranking methodology, which provides detailed information on how we compiled each score and which sources were used for each category.

Now that you know how we got there, it’s time for results. The ten states with the deadliest highways will be presented as a countdown:
Bad > Real Bad > The Worst 
We will end off at this year’s dire winner . . . The state in 1st for having the absolute deadliest highways in the nation. Okay, let’s get started:

#10 – Massachusetts

Best Ranking: Per Capita Death Rate – 50th
Worst Ranking: Highway Federal Funding – 1st

For the fourth year in a row Massachusetts has found itself on this deadliest list, and once again its biggest problem is a troubling one: insufficient funding to fix its decrepit highways.

Alarming Fact: Massachusetts has the lowest per capita federal highway funding in the nation despite logging more vehicle highway miles driven than 33 states for the past five consecutive years.

The above news clip lists $53.2 million worth of specific road improvement projects through Massachusetts going on through 2021. The reporter ends the video: “Drivers say it’s money well spent” and, the state resident couldn’t be more spot on when he replies, “Well, if they actually fix them right – instead of just patching them.” 

And, that seems to be the problem in The Bay State. Millions of tax dollars keep going to “temporary” road improvement projects that aren’t getting to the root of the problem.

The nine cents per state resident that Massachusetts is getting in federal aid to maintain its highways is clearly not cutting it.

The Good News: Despite having old roads in desperate need of proper repair, from 2013 to 2017, Massachusetts had a lower per capita traffic crash death rate than any other state in the U.S.: an average of five deaths for every 100,000 residents. Only D.C.’s was lower at 3.7.

#9 – West Virginia

Best Ranking: Highway Federal Funding – 45th
Worst Ranking: Deficient Highway Bridges – 4th

The bridges in West Virginia might just be better for jumping off of (at least on Bridge Day) than driving over.

Since 2015, West Virginia has been home to the 2nd deadliest collection of highway bridges in the country –  beat only by Little Rhody.

Take a look at the concerning and declining bridge status in West Virginia from 2013 to 2017:

 
Number of Bridges
Structurally Deficient
Percent of Bridges
Structurally Deficient
U.S. Rank:
Worst Bridges
2013
97
7.93%
9th
2014
98
7.64%
7th
2015
126
9.84%
2nd
2016
141
10.93%
2nd
2017
167
12.94%
2nd

The Good News: West Virginia has some of the highest per capita funding from the government to maintain its roadways. This is simultaneously encouraging and confusing since the bridges in The Mountain State are in such bad condition.

There’s a burning question we can’t help but ask. Where did the combined $2.4 million in road-fixing-cash West Virginia got from 2013-2017 go??

#7 (Tie) – Wyoming

Best Ranking: Highway Federal Funding – 50th
Worst Ranking: Per Capita Death Rate – 2nd

You think that insane pile up looks bad?  Although there was undoubtedly millions of dollars in damages and 27 people injured, amazingly no one died in that crazy blizzard crash that seemed to never end.

Now that you have the visual of such a massive collision claiming zero lives, imagine what Wyoming highways must look like with all the deadly car crashes that occurred from 2013 to 2017 that resulted in 617 deaths.

There’s no possible worse reason to land on this deadliest highway list than because of an actual death count, and only one other state on this 2019 list has its per capita fatality rate as its worst ranking factor – you’ll find the other one below.

What makes this even scarier is that last year when we did this exact study, Wyoming didn’t even rank in the top ten. In fact, The Cowboy State ranked 27th. That’s right, just last year Wyoming highways proved to be safer than over half of the country! What the heck happened, folks?

Here’s a look at the deadly crash stats over five years:

 
Fatal Car Crashes
Number of Deaths
Deaths per
100k Residents
U.S. Rank:
Death Rate
2013
75
87
15
13th
2014
131
150
26
1st
2015
129
145
25
1st
2016
100
112
19
5th
2017
105
123
21
2nd

Yes, there were fewer fatal car crashes and deaths in 2017 than there were in 2014 and 2015, BUT the jump by 36 traffic deaths from 2013 to 2017 is quite distressing.

The Good News: At an astounding $0.48 per state resident, Wyoming has the most highway federal funding than any state in the country other than Alaska.

#7 (Tie) – Pennsylvania

Best Ranking: Per Capita Death Rate – 35th
Worst Ranking: Deficient Highway Bridges – 2nd

Because seeing something in print usually hits a little harder for most people, here’s a recap of some of the horrifying statements made in the above news clip about Pennsylvania’s bridges:

– “An astonishing number of Western Pennsylvania bridges are crumbling

PennDot has started putting weight restrictions on dozens of local bridges because it does not have the money to fix them.”

– “Right away we’re seeing lots of rust. In some cases chunks of rusty steel – pieces of the bridge ready to fall off.”
– “Out of the 36 cables that are on this bridge, we have 15 of these cables that have broken wires.”
– “Just look at this gaping hole where rust has eaten away at the bridge.”
– “You can see how long we have been repairing this. I mean, even the repairs are starting to go.”
– “We’re running out of options of where to pull money from to fix these bridges.”

The repairs necessary to fix the Elizabeth bridge highlighted in the ABC local news clip above cost over $31 million, and that bridge is just one of 341 in that one county (Allegheny County) that has been labeled “structurally deficient.”

Fortunately – for both the boats below and the drivers above – the bridge status across Pennsylvania has improved since 2013. Having 158 less highway bridges found to be structurally deficient in 2017 compared to 2013 was no little feat.

Here’s the five-year trend:

 
Number of Bridges
Structurally Deficient
Percent of Bridges
Structurally Deficient
U.S. Rank:
Worst Bridges
2013
583
11.14%
3rd
2014
582
9.94%
3rd
2015
530
9.04%
3rd
2016
477
8.19%
4th
2017
425
7.31%
6th

The Good News: Although ranking 35th isn’t stellar, at least Pennsylvania’s per capita death rate is better than 34 states. In 2017 there were 8.9 people killed in traffic accidents for every 100k PA residents—totaling 1,137 deaths. Yes, that’s the good news.

#6 – New Hampshire

Best Ranking: Per Capita Death Rate – 38th
Worst Ranking: Statewide Seat Belt Use – 1st

Did you know? New Hampshire is the ONLY state in the country that does not require adults to wear seat belts.

Their motto “Live Free or Die” is taken quite literally when it comes to driving in The Granite State. It’s not just seat belts that aren’t required; car insurance isn’t either!

At least when it comes to insurance, state residents are still doing the responsible thing and protecting themselves with coverage. Only 9.9 percent of motorists are uninsured, which places New Hampshire 35th in the nation – better than 34 states that DO require it by law.

On the other hand (or should we say “shoulder”?), the fact that New Hampshire doesn’t have a seat belt law is really showing. Nearly 30 percent of adults who live free in New Hampshire don’t buckle up. In 2017, the average seat belt use in the other 49 states was 88.25 percent, which looks remarkable compared to New Hampshire’s careless 67.60 percent.

Seat belts save lives, and far too many New Hampshire drivers are not taking the two seconds (or less) to click it. Here’s New Hampshire’s 2013-2017 seat belt use stats:

 
Seat Belts? YES
Seat Belts? NO
U.S. Rank:
Seat Belt Use
2013
73%
27%
2nd
2014
70.4%
29.6%
2nd
2015
69.5%
30.5%
1st
2016
70.2%
29.8%
1st
2017
67.6%
32.4%
1st

Listen up New Hampshire residents!! Just because it’s not a law doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear it. Here’s what seat belts can do for you:

  • They reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers by 45%
  • They reduce the risk of moderate-to-critical injuries by 50% for those in the front seats
  • For those riding in the back seats in vans and SUVs, they prevent 73% of fatalities

The Good News: New Hampshire’s per capita traffic death rate is better than 37 other states, and it improved greatly from 2016 to 2017. Here’s the comparison:

2016: 136 deaths. 10.2 people killed for every 100k residents
2017: 102 deaths. 7.6 people killed for every 100k residents

Again, those traffic fatality counts would be lower if everyone would just buckled up.

#5 – Louisiana

Best Ranking: Highway Federal Funding – 31st
Worst Ranking: Per Capita Death Rate – 11th

“Because one death is too many” Louisiana is striving towards ZERO traffic fatalities. If you don’t believe in miracles like the hopeful man sang in the above clip, zero seems completely impossible, but hopefully Louisiana can reach their first set goal of cutting these preventable deaths in half by 2030.

There are far too many people killed in Louisiana car crashes. Here’s the staggering number of lives lost over the past 24 years:

  • 700+ in ’10 and ’12-’17
  • 820+ in ’94, ’95 and ’09
  • 900+ each year from ’96-’08

Since 1994, there was one year that the traffic death count in Louisiana stayed below 700, which was in 2011 when there were 680 people killed in crashes—680 too many.

Sadly since 2013, there’s been a steady increase of traffic deaths on Louisiana’s roadways. Here’s the five-year trend:

 
Fatal Car Crashes
Number of Deaths
Deaths per 100k Residents
U.S. Rank: Death Rate
2013
651
703
15.2
11th
2014
662
737
15.9
10th
2015
674
752
16.1
11th
2016
704
757
16.2
10th
2017
696
760
16.2
11th

Not only are Louisiana’s highways deadly, but the drivers in this state have ranked in the top six worst in the nation in our popular Worst Drivers Study every year since 2011.

The Good News: With more per capita federal funding for road improvements than over half the country ($0.16 per resident), hopefully Louisiana highways will be well maintained, and in turn help lower the traffic death count.

#4 – Colorado

Best Ranking: Per Capita Death Rate – 29th
Worst Ranking (Tie): Speeding Deaths & Seat Belt Use – 13th

As you can see in the above news report on that fiery Denver crash, just one driver speeding out of control is enough to cause 28 vehicles to collide and four people to die.

One driver making one mistake can affect (or end) many lives in a matter of seconds, which is why Colorado’s prevalence of speeding combined with state residents failing to wear their seat belts is such a harrowing combination. Check out the chart below showing the historical summary of these stats:

 
Speeding-Related Deaths
U.S. Rank:
Speeding
Seat Belt? No
U.S. Rank:
Seat Belt Use
2013
150
21st
17.9%
14th
2014
168
19th
17.6%
13th
2015
216
15th
14.8%
18th
2016
211
18th
16%
15th
2017
230
15th
16.2%
11th

Granted it could be worse, but those are two deadly categories to land in the top 20 (for the worst) year after year. Plus, speeding deaths across Colorado have been on a steady rise for five-straight years now.

The Good News: The death rate in The Centennial State is nothing to celebrate, but at least it’s lower than it is in 28 other states.

This is the part where we try to be positive, however, we can’t ignore the fact that since 2013 the per capita vehicle crash death rate in Colorado has increased from nine deaths every 100k residents up to 11.6. That increase might sound slight, but when you look at the actual number of people killed it’s far from slight:

Colorado’s Annual Traffic Death Totals:

  • 2013 – 481
  • 2014 – 488
  • 2015 – 546
  • 2016 – 608
  • 2017 – 648

We really hope these deadly driving conditions in Colorado improve soon.

#3 – Arizona

Best Ranking: Deficient Highway Bridges – 42nd
Worst Ranking (Tie): Speeding & Highway Fatal Crashes – 6th

“Horror on the Highway” is how the ABC News report is titled above, and it is exactly that.

Even though the commercial truck driver had his wallet placed to intentionally block the dash cam, his cell phone log and a still image of his phone – flying through the cabin – were able to prove his illegal phone use was what caused him to lose control of the truck, plow through multiple vehicles stopped on the side of the highway, and kill a police officer.

From 2013-2017 there were 390 fatal crashes that involved a large truck like the one in the above disturbing video, and this is just one of the reasons Arizona lands at the three spot on our deadliest highways list this year.

Arizona not only has some of the highest rates of traffic deaths on the highway, but it also ranks in the top ten for being home to some of the highest numbers of fatal crashes caused by speeding. Below are the eye-opening stats:

 
Traffid Deaths
By Speeding
U.S. Rank:
Speeding
Highway
Fatal Crashes
U.S. Rank:
Highway Fatal Crashes
2013
290
6th
422
8th
2014
254
7th
347
7th
2015
307
5th
437
7th
2016
311
5th
519
7th
2017
299
6th
497
6th

In 2017, there were 919 total people who died in vehicle crashes in the state of Arizonanearly half (47 percent) of those involved motorists who were speeding or vehicles that were traveling on the highway.

Remove speeding and highway miles from the equation and you cut Arizona’s unnecessary traffic deaths practically in half.

The Good News: When it comes to the condition of its bridges, Arizona has ranked a top 10 safest state in the country two years in a row. From 2013 to 2017 only an average of 1.83 percent of Arizona’s highway bridges have been labeled “structurally deficient.” That’s a huge difference compared to Pennsylvania’s 9.12 percent five-year average.

#2 – North Carolina

Best Ranking: Statewide Seat Belt Use – 30th
Worst Ranking: Highway Federal Funding – 8th

This is the fourth-straight year that The Tar Heel State has landed on this Most Dangerous Highways list, and year after year the category it scores the worst in remains the same: Highway Federal Funding.

Another indication of North Carolina’s detrimental road-quality problems is how an interstate (I-95) that runs through 15 states and D.C. is unarguably the worst in just one of all those places, you guessed it – our state in 2nd this year. 

Nearly half of the concrete on North Carolina highways is in “very poor” quality, over 1,400 of the dams have been classified as “high hazard,” 174 of its highway bridges are “structurally deficient,” and the 11 cents per resident in federal funding is FAR from enough to fix these problems.

Here’s a graph illustrating how North Carolina’s highway federal aid from 2015-2017 compares to the four states receiving the most financial help in the U.S.:

Federal Funding for Highways in 5 States

The Good News: When it comes to drivers and passengers wearing their seat belts, North Carolina scored better than 29 states.

What’s causing motorists to buckle up? Is it due to fear of the crumbling concrete below their vehicles? Or is it the $179 fine they can get for failing to wear a seat belt?

Regardless of the reason, from 2013-2017, the average seat belt use across North Carolina was an impressive 90.2 percent.

#1 – South Carolina

Best Ranking: Statewide Seat Belt Use – 37th
Worst Ranking (Tie): Speeding & Death Rate – 4th

Every year we have done this study, South Carolina has landed at the top of this list. In fact, this is the second year The Palmetto State has earned 1st for having the most dangerous highways in the nation.

The per capita death rate in South Carolina is consistently among the highest in the nation, and every year since 2015, the annual number of traffic fatalities in this state has exceeded 900.

The worst year in the past five for S.C. roads was 2016 when there were 1,020 people killed in car crashes. Of those deaths, at least 381 (37 percent) likely would have been avoided had motorists not been driving over the speed limit.

Check out the five-year trend below:

 
Fatal Car Crashes
Number of Deaths
Speeding-Related Deaths
% Caused by Speeding
2013
719
767
306
40%
2014
757
824
305
37%
2015
909
977
361
37%
2016
941
1,020
381
37%
2017
924
988
416
42%

As you can see in the above chart, the total number of traffic deaths decreased since 2016 (it’s a good thing), but the number of deaths caused by speeding in 2017 was the highest yet—110 more people than both 2013 and 2014.

The Good News: South Carolina scored better than 36 states in the category of seat belt use. Every year since 2013, South Carolina residents have had 90 percent or higher seat belt use across the state.

Although seat belts can’t put an end to 700+ fatal crashes happening each year in South Carolina, it will help protect the people inside the vehicles involved when crashes occur. The real issue across the state is dangerous highways and deadly driver decisions making them that way. 

We’d like to see South Carolina make its way off of this Most Dangerous Highways list and off of our Worst Drivers list that it’s been landing at the top of for over six years now.

Highway Conditions & Driver Decisions

Let’s take a closer look at all six categories in our study to see what’s causing the highways in our nation to be the way they are, which in some cases is safe and in many others it’s downright deadly. Scroll through to see both data tables and clear visuals for the best and the worst in each ranking category.

– Speeding Fatalities

Below is a visual of the number of deaths that resulted from drivers who were speeding in the three states with the most and the three states with the least over the last three years. Here’s the annual death count for the six states across three years.

Speeding Traffic Deaths '15-'17 in 3 best and worst states

The total number you see in the graph above is of course going to be affected by the population and number of drivers in each state, scroll down further to see a ranking that is based on state highway miles.

Below is a chart showing the ten best and worst states (D.C. is included in this one) in the category of speeding-related traffic fatalities. This ranking was determined by first finding the five-year speeding death total (on highways only) and then finding the per highway mile death rate.

10 Best:
Least Speeding Deaths
U.S. Rank:
Speeding Deaths
10 Worst:
Most Speeding Deaths
U.S. Rank:
Speeding Deaths
Maine
51st
District of Columbia
1st
North Dakota
50th
California
2nd
Alaska
49th
Hawaii
3rd
South Dakota
48th
South Carolina
4th
Nebraska
47th
Texas
5th
Wyoming
46th
Arizona
6th
Vermont
45th
Rhode Island
7th
Iowa
44th
Maryland
8th
Mississippi
43rd
New Hampshire
9th
Montana
42nd
North Carolina
10th

– Statewide Seat Belt Use

Drivers and passengers who wear seat belts are 45 percent less likely to die in a deadly crash. When state residents choose to not wear their seat belts, highways in that state become more deadly because more people die in crashes—it’s that simple.

Here’s a graph showing seat belt use in 2017 in the five states where residents wear them the most and least in the country:

Seat Belt use in 5 best and worst states 2017

Check out this new technology car manufacturers are working on that won’t let motorists shift into drive if their seat belt isn’t buckled:

Below is a table showing the ten best and worst areas (D.C. included) ranked according to seat belt use across five years, 2013-2017.

10 Best:
Most Seat Belt Use
U.S. Rank:
Seat Belt Use
10 Worst:
Least Seat Belt Use
U.S. Rank:
Seat Belt Use
California
51st
New Hampshire
1st
Oregon
50th
South Dakota
2nd
Georgia
49th
Montana
3rd
Alabama
47th (tie)
Massachusetts
4th
Washington
47th (tie)
Arkansas
5th
Minnesota
46th
Mississippi
6th
Illinois
45th
Virginia
7th
Hawaii
44th
Missouri
8th
Michigan
43rd
Nebraska
9th
Iowa
42nd
Wyoming
10th

– Deficient Highway Bridges

Most people don’t realize how many bridges and other roadways in our country are no longer structurally strong enough to sustain travel—yet they are traveled on daily by thousands of vehicles.

The terrifying reality is that – in most cases – a roadway or bridge in the U.S. has to actually start to crumble away before it will be officially closed.

Below is a graph showing the total number of highway bridges labeled “structurally deficient” in the U.S. in the three states with the most and the three with the least for the most recent three years data is available from the Federal Highway Administration.

Number of Structurally Deficient Bridges in 6 states '15-'17

Did you notice? Texas is not one of the three states with the most structurally deficient bridges even though it’s the largest state in the continental U.S.—a monumental accomplishment.

This video shows more data on the topic from The American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s 2017 Bridge Report. Keep in mind the totals presented include all bridges in the country not just the highways bridges tested by the Federal Highway Administration that are used for this study:

Although the actual number of bridges in poor condition is interesting to see, we wanted to make a fair and accurate comparison across the country. For this reason, we ranked all 50 states and D.C. according to the percent of all their highway bridges that were found to be “structurally deficient” by the FHA across a five-year period. The ten best and worst states are below.

10 Best:
Least Deficient Bridges
U.S. Rank:
Bridge Quality
10 Worst:
Most Deficient Bridges
U.S. Rank:
Bridge Quality
Texas
51st
Rhode Island
1st
Florida
50th
Pennsylvania
2nd
Nevada
49th
Massachusetts
3rd
Kansas
48th
West Virginia
4th
Utah
47th
Wyoming
5th
Georgia
46th
Alaska
6th (tie)
Mississippi
45th
New York
6th (tie)
Iowa
44th
Illinois
8th
Arizona
43rd
New Jersey
9th
Alabama
42nd
Connecticut
10th

– Highway Fatal Crashes

We’ll look at total traffic deaths by state later, but here’s some highlights on the data we collected specifically on crashes where people were killed on highways only.

Here are total fatal crashes in the three best and worst states from 2015 to 2017:

Highway Fatal Crashes in six states '15-'17

Again, the total number is accurate and telling, but in order to make comparisons on an even playing field, we dug further to find out how many fatal crashes there were in each state for every 1,000 miles of highway travel.

We found the 2013 to 2017 five-year total number of highway fatal crashes, the number of highway miles driven by vehicle those same years, and then with those results calculated the number of fatal crashes in each state and D.C. for every 1,000 vehicle miles traveled. The ten best and worst states in the U.S. by highway fatal crash rate is below.

10 Best: Lowest Fatal Crash Rate
U.S. Rank: Highway Fatal Crashes
10 Worst: Highest Fatal Crash Rate
U.S. Rank: Highway Fatal Crashes
District of Columbia
51st
Alaska
1st
Minnesota
50th
New Mexico
2nd
New York
49th
Wyoming
3rd
Wisconsin
48th
Montana
4th
Massachusetts
47th
Idaho
5th
Delaware
46th
Arizona
6th
New Jersey
45th
Mississippi
7th
Maine
44th
South Carolina
8th
Maryland
43rd
Texas
9th
Washington
42nd
Arkansas
10th

Here’s a video discussing what might be causing increases in fatal crashes across the U.S.:

– Highway Federal Funding

How much money a state gets from the government to aid in the maintenance and conditioning of its roads makes a huge difference in how safe or dangerous the highways in that state will be over time.

This graph shows the annual amount of highway federal aid the three states getting the most and the three getting the least received from 2015-2017:

Highway Federal funding in 6 states from '15-'17

A larger state is going to have a more roads, and more roads to repair means more money needed in federal funding.

For a more even comparison from 2013 to 2017 we found the total amount of highway federal funding each state and D.C. received per state/district resident. We then ranked all 51 areas according to their per capita five-year annual average. Check out the ten best and worst states below:

10 Best: Most
Federal Aid
U.S. Rank: Highway
Federal Funds
10 Worst: Least
Federal Aid
U.S. Rank: Highway
Federal Funds
Alaska
51st
Massachusetts
1st
Wyoming
50th
New York
2nd
Montana
49th
Florida
3rd
Vermont
48th
California
4th
North Dakota
47th
Washington
5th
South Dakota
46th
Maryland
6th
West Virginia
45th
Michigan
7th
District of Columbia
44th
North Carolina
8th
Rhode Island
43rd
Arizona
9th (tie)
Delaware
42nd
Illinois
9th (tie)

You think U.S. highways are in rough shape now? At least they are not still “abhorrent and unfit for travel” like they were in the late 1800s. Learn about the history of interstates in American in this fascinating lesson:

– Traffic Death Rates

All six categories used in this study are essential in determining how deadly each state’s highways are, but the car crash death rate sure hits close to home.

First, let’s look at the total number of traffic fatalities in the three states with the most and the three with the least from 2015 to 2017.

Traffic Death Totals in 6 States '15-'17

Again we have California, Florida, and Texas as the three worst states when looking at raw totals, and that’s partly because those are the three most populated states in the country.

However, just because a state has a lot of people doesn’t mean a lot of people have to die in car crashes. Plus, not long ago, New York had a higher population than Florida.

Due to the variance in size and population among the states, we determined how many people died in traffic accidents for every 100,000 state residents from 2013 to 2017 then we ranked all 50 states and D.C. Here are the ten best and worst states according to their per capita death rates:

10 Best: Lowest Death Rates
U.S. Rank: Per Capita Death Rate
10 Worst: Highest Death Rates
U.S. Rank: Per Capita Death Rates
District of Columbia
51st
Mississippi
1st
Massachusetts
50th
Wyoming
2nd
New York
49th
Montana
3rd
Rhode Island
48th
South Carolina
4th
New Jersey
47th
Alabama
5th
Minnesota
46th
North Dakota
6th
Washington
45th
Oklahoma
7th
Hawaii
44th
New Mexico
8th
Connecticut
43rd
Arkansas
9th
Illinois
42nd
Kentucky
10th

Since this category holds so much significance, we’d like to share some more of our findings. Here is the five year (2013-2017) average number of people who are dying for every 100k residents in the five best and worst states:

5 Year Average Per Capita Death Rates in 10 States

Every year since 2013, the rate of death by car crash was over 20 people for every 100k residents in at least two states—in 2015 it was over 20 in four states.

Mississippi had the highest traffic death rate in both 2016 and 2017 at over 23 fatalities for every 100,000 residents. At least no one was killed in this crazy Mississippi crash caught on tape:

What’s inspiring is that New York – the forth-most-populated state – has the second-lowest death rate in the nation at only 5.5 deaths for every 100,000 people.

This proves that having over 19 million residents and 123.7 billion annual vehicle miles traveled doesn’t mean there has to be a high rate of highway traffic fatalities.

Methodology

In order to determine which states had the most dangerous highways, all 50 states and the District of Columbia were scored across six categories. The detailed scoring process and specific sources referenced are all explained below.

1. Speeding Fatalities

Using the NHTSA‘s crash stats, we determined how many speeding-related traffic deaths each state had from 2013 to 2017. Then using the total number of interstate miles in each state, we calculated the five-year death rate per interstate mile.

Each state was ranked 1-51. 1 = the worst, which was D.C. at a death rate of 0.65 for every mile of interstate.

2. Seat Belt Use

NHTSA provides an annual Traffic Safety Facts Sheets that includes seat belt use stats for the U.S. We found the percentage of seat belt use in each state and D.C., then ranked all 51 areas according to their five-year average (2013-2017).

1st place is the worst, and that went to New Hampshire at an average seat belt use of only 70.78 percent.

3. Deficient Highway Bridges

Each year the U.S. DOT’s Federal Highway Administration lists the number of bridges in each state that have been labeled “structurally deficient.” We determined the percentage of highway bridges that were found to be in this condition in each state and D.C. from 2013-2017. We then ranked all 51 areas by this percentage for each year. We added up the annual rank to get a total score. That score was used to arrive at the final rank.

1st went to Rhode Island with a total score of five (it ranked 1st every year) and a five-year average percentage of bridges that are deficient of 21.41.

4. Highway Fatal Crashes

NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) provides incredible detail of the fatal crashes that happen each year across the country. We analyzed these reports to find out how many fatal crashes happened from 2013 to 2017 in all 50 states and D.C. Then with the help of U.S. DOT’s FHA again, we were able to find out how many highway miles were traveled each of those years in all 51 areas. Using the five years of crashes and miles traveled data, we found the average number of highway crashes for every 1,000 miles traveled.

Each area was ranked – 1st being the worst, which went to Alaska with an average of 12.37 fatal crashes for every 1,000 highway miles.

5. Highway Federal Funding

The U.S. DOT’s FHA also has a Policy and Governmental Affairs Office that publishes detailed Highway Policy Information. Here we were able to find how much every state and D.C. received from 2013 to 2017 into their Federal Aid Highway Trust Fund. We used the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety‘s (IIHS) population totals so our numbers would be the same across the multiple categories populations were used. We were then able to determine the amount all 51 areas received per state/district resident. Just like with our bridge category, all 51 areas got a rank for each year, those rankings added up to a final score. The lowest scores were the highest rankings, and the highest rankings were the worst results.

1st for the worst in federal funding went to Massachusetts with a final score in this category of nine.

6. Per Capita Death Rates

With the help of in-depth reports from IIHS, we were able to find the total number of traffic deaths that occurred in every state and D.C. from 2013 to 2017. Although these totals were extremely telling (and frightening), we needed to make an even comparison across the U.S. So, we used the same annual population totals as we did for the highway funding and determined how many deaths happened all five years in all 51 areas per every 100,000 state/district residents.

We averaged the annual per capita death rate across the five years to rank all the states and D.C. Coming in at number one was Mississippi with nearly 22 deaths for every 100k residents.

– The Final Rankings

The rankings in the above six categories were added up to create a total score.

  • Lowest Total Scores (92-118) = Highest Final Rankings
  • Highest Rankings (1st-10th) = Most Dangerous Highways in the U.S.

Complete Scores & Rankings

StatesSpeeding DeathsSeat BeltsDeficient BridgesFatal CrashesFederal  FundingDeath RateTotal  ScoreFinal Rank
Alabama2747421335516936
Alaska492861513416936
Arizona6254269211093
Arkansas335311039912713
California250153244014318
Colorado1313202114291104
Connecticut16251034294315726
Delaware35342946422320948
D.C.1391751445120346
Florida3429502331615525
Georgia15484618191916531
Hawaii3431928174415423
Idaho2912285391913214
Illinois114483394214721
Indiana23352226302416028
Iowa44414438362723050
Kansas38154817251716028
Kentucky40233222321015927
Louisiana2019211231111145
Maine51181144282617843
Maryland836344364116834
Massachusetts14434715011910
Michigan1742144073115122
Minnesota41454150154623851
Mississippi43645738114017
Missouri1882525341512512
Montana42323449312411
Nebraska4792730332517138
Nevada21394914222817340
New Hampshire91123718381156
New Jersey3932945134718544
New Mexico283829241814619
New York323364924917138
North Carolina10301815818992
North Dakota5011362747617742
Ohio30173539123516834
Oklahoma2621241937713415
Oregon36493831213020547
Pennsylvania121522923351167
Rhode Island726135434816028
South Carolina437128274921
South Dakota4823720461416733
Tennessee37273815241315423
Texas531519202113716
Utah25204724113916632
Vermont45144041483322149
Virginia2472636163714619
Washington1946164254517340
West Virginia222441145121189
Wisconsin31223348263219245
Wyoming4610535021167

 

Previous Study Results

References:
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