“Life’s like a road that you travel on,
When there’s one day here and the next day gone…”
A motor vehicle accident can end your life without warning in a matter of seconds.
Car accidents happen everywhere, but some of the roads in our country are proving to be much more dangerous than others.
Click here to review our methodology.
The 10 States with the Most Dangerous Highways
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.
#10 – Texas
Austin’s Pennybacker Bridge
Best Ranking: Highway Bridges – 11th
Worst Ranking: Speeding Deaths – 47th
Texas’ nickname and state flag represent pride, defiance, and independence. The problem is when Texas residents defy the law risking the safety of others.
Like Ian Johnson admits from behind bars in this video: “It’s not worth it. Just for that 10 second rush. It’s not worth it.”
With 1,105 people killed due to speeding in 2015 alone, Texas drivers need to slow down and find other means to illustrate their independence.
#9 – Colorado
Tunnel at Colorado National Monument
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.”
#8 – Massachusetts
Boston’s Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge
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.
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.
#6 (Tie) – West Virginia
Sunrise over Downtown Charleston
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).
#6 (Tie) – Montana
Glendive’s Makoshika State Park
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.
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
Highway leading to NC State University
Best Ranking: Fatal Crashes – 17th
Worst Ranking: Federal Funding – 44th
Receiving only 10 cents per resident in 2015 federal aid towards its highway spending, the Tar Heel state isn’t getting the help it needs to maintain safe public roads.
- NCDOT Now – weekly video publications communicating with residents about new traffic laws and road improvements being made.
- School Bus Cameras – automated devices are installed on North Carolina school buses to catch drivers passing stopped school buses. These tickets cost a minimum of $400!
- 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.
- Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine – an annual speed enforcement blitz taking place for a couple weeks around Easter with increased patrols and a zero tolerance for speeding.
The main reason North Carolina landed on our Worst Driver Top 10 was because of speeding, and ranking 41st with 547 total speeding fatalities in this study, it remains a major problem across the state.
Hopefully North Carolina residents will heed all the laws and warnings their dedicated department of transportation has put in place.
#4 – Pennsylvania
Bridges at Downtown Pittsburgh
Best Ranking: Death Rate – 22nd
Worst Ranking: Highway Bridges – 46th
The primary reason Pennsylvania, the Keystone State, has ranked in the top four states with the Most Dangerous Highways (two years in-a-row!) is because of its unsafe bridges.
This is ironic considering the meaning behind its nickname:
“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.
#3 – Arizona
O’Callaghan/Tillman Bridge over the Hoover Dam
Best Ranking: Highway Bridges – 9th
Worst Ranking (Tie): Speeding Deaths & Fatal Crashes – 45th
Tragically, Arizona’s two factors that make its highways some of the most dangerous in the U.S. both involve highest number of deaths.
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.
#2 – South Carolina
Ashley River Bridges leading to Downtown Charleston
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.
South Carolina is ranked in the top 10 worst states for three major categories:
- Fatal Crashes – 43rd
- Speeding Deaths – 46th
- Death Rate – 47th
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
Downtown Shreveport over the Red River
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.
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
– Speeding Fatalities
- 2 Worst: Arizona 45th & Texas 47th
– Highway Bridges
- 2 Best: Arizona 9th & Texas 11th
- 2 Worst: Pennsylvania 47th & Massachusetts 50th
– Fatal Crashes
- 1 Best: N. Carolina 17th
- 3 Worst: W. Virginia 44th, Arizona 45th & Louisiana 47th
– Death Rate
- 3 Best: Massachusetts 2nd, Colorado 19th & Pennsylvania 22nd
- 2 Worst: S. Carolina 47th & Montana 50th
– Federal Funding
- 3 Best: Montana 4th, W. Virginia 8th & Louisiana 19th
- 3 Worst: Colorado 41st, N. Carolina 44th & Massachusetts 50th
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.
“With the Trump administration now in office, highway policies might be changed before the current highway bill runs its five-year course,” says DownsizingGovernment.org, part of Cato Institute.
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)
- Don’t Speed
- Do Stay in Your Lane
- Don’t Tailgate
- Do Stay Visible
- Don’t Drive Tired
- Do Stay Alert
- Don’t Drive Angry
- Do Check Your Blind Spots
- Don’t Drive Drunk
- Do Eat/Text/Floss Later
- Don’t Drive Distracted
- Do Adjust for Weather
“Stop accidents before they stop you.” – BCIC
This in-depth study is based on 2011-2015 data provided by the following credible sources:
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
- Fatality Analysis Reporting (FARS)
- Interstate Guide
- United States Census Bureau
- Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
All 50 states plus D.C. were ranked according to the following categories:
- Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate
- Percent of Drivers Not Wearing Seat Belts
- Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient
- Interstate Fatal Crashes per 1,000 Miles Traveled
- Federal Aid for Highway Trust Fund per Capita
- Car Crash Death Rates per 100,000 Residents
The rankings for all six categories were added up to arrive at one very telling final score.
Highest Scores = Most Dangerous Highways