Which states have the safest highways?

Here's what you need to know...
  • Motor vehicle accidents are the fifth leading cause of deaths in the United States
  • Oregon ranks third as the state with the lowest percent of drivers without seat belts
  • Driving defensively is the best way to stay safe on the open road

According to the National Safety Council, the fifth leading cause of death in the United States is motor vehicle accidents.

Whether these accidents are the result of careless driving, hazardous weather, or vehicle malfunctions, the possible causes are endless.

Motorists take precautions in making each driving experience a safe one. But regardless of effort, accidents happen every day throughout the United States. But which states can boast of highways yielding the least amount of accidents?

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With the question above in mind, we researched statistics and crunched numbers from the following sources to give you the graph below:

One of the first notable trends you might pick out of the table is that each of the Top 10 states ranks high (single digits) in at least one category, if not several. Iowa managed to stay in the Top 10 for the first three categories!

Top 10 Safest Highways

#10 – Vermont

Best Ranking Factor: Federal Funding: 7th
Worst Ranking Factor: Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient: 43rd

All 9,216 square miles of Vermont lands the last spot on our list of Top 10 Safest Highways. Although ranked 7th overall in federal funding, their 22nd place for drivers without seat belts combined with the whopping 43rd for deficient highway bridges is what hurt them the most.

#9 – New Jersey
New Jersey

Best Ranking Factor: IIHS Death Rates: 4th
Worst Ranking Factor: Federal Funding: 47th

New Jersey fared well with the highway death rate, ranking 4th. Being ranked 5th in fatalities per interstate mile isn’t too bad either.

#8 – Oregon

Best Ranking Factor: Percent of Drivers Without Seat Belts: 3rd
Worst Ranking Factor: Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient: 38th

Ranking 3rd as the state with the lowest percent of drivers without seat belts is definitely something to write home about. The minimal amount of fatalities per interstate mile is also a factor that boosts Oregon higher on our scale.

The biggest hit this Pacific Northwest state took was not just in federal funding, but mainly with their less-than-satisfactory highway bridges.

#7 – Alaska

Best Ranking Factor: Federal Funding: 1st
Worst Ranking Factor: Highway Deaths per 1,000 Miles Traveled: 48th

For being 1,445 miles away from the continental United States, Alaska lacks nothing when it comes to federal funding. The Last Frontier also ranked high in fatalities per interstate mile, which might all have to do with the fact that Alaska is the least populated state per square mile, despite being the largest.

The fact that the statistics for seat belt-less drivers, inefficient bridges, and highway deaths per 1,000 miles are at the opposite extremity causes Alaska to land in our #7 spot for states with the safest highways.

#6 – Nebraska

Best Ranking Factor: Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient: 2nd
Worst Ranking Factor: Percent of Drivers Without Seat Belts: 30th

Kudos to Nebraska’s Department of Roads for staying on top of the quality of their highway bridges. But when it comes to drivers without seat belts, we are left shaking our heads. The statistics of interstate and highway fatalities and death rates rank average or just above.

#5 – North Dakota

Best Ranking Factor: Highway Bridges Rates Obsolete or Deficient: 1st
Worst Ranking Factor: Percent of Drivers Without Seat Belts: 38th

As far as statistics go, this northern Midwest state ranked among the top four for three of our six categories. Claiming 4th in federal funding and 1st in deficient bridges, it seems that it’s the drivers that need to step it up a notch. Landing at 38th in the category of drivers that don’t wear seat belts, this may be the reason for the #2 spot in interstate fatalities.

#4 – Michigan
wood sign pointing to michigan

Best Ranking Factor: Percent of Drivers Without Seat Belts: 5th
Worst Ranking Factor: Federal Funding: 34th

Even though the Great Lakes State is notorious for their poor road conditions, it managed to seize our #4 spot for safest highways. This time, we can thank Michigan’s defensive drivers, as they claim 5th in the least amount of drivers who ignore the seat belt, and the death rates are minimal.

#3 – Indiana

Best Ranking Factor: Highway Deaths per 1,000 Miles Traveled: 1st
Worst Ranking Factor: Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate & IIHS Death Rates: 24th

Entering our top three, Indiana wins this notable place. While their ranking in the majority of our categories is mediocre, the clincher was their 1st place spot in the deaths per 1,000 highway miles traveled category. If the Hoosier State could only drop their death rates, they could very well be a first place contender.

#2 – Minnesota

Best Ranking Factor: Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient: 3rd
Worst Ranking Factor: Federal Funding: 37th

The federal funding was Minnesota’s biggest hit, landing them in the #2 spot. The rest of their rankings fared well, each landing the North Star State in the top twenty — three of them in the top ten.

#1 – Iowa

Best Ranking Factor: Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate: 1st
Worst Ranking Factor: IIHS Death Rates: 28th

Iowa is awarded our State with the Safest Highways! There was only one category in which Iowa ranked in the bottom half but apparently recovered by ranking in the top ten of three categories. With the lowest total score of 86, Iowa beat Minnesota by the skin of its teeth with just one point.

Honorable Mentions

Utah and Illinois both just missed placing on our list. While ranking in the top twenty in four categories, both did poorly in federal funding, as well as interstate speeding fatalities per mile of interstate.

Illinois even ranked seventh in death rates; however, when the federal funding sinks 12th from the bottom, the highways will wind up causing that state to get lost somewhere in the mediocrity.

Being Proactive

Although some of these statistics are unaffected by our personal efforts, you can still take action in making sure that you and your loved ones don’t become one of these statistics. Being a defensive driver is of utmost importance when behind the wheel.

Taking precautions like avoiding bad weather and resisting the urge to text and drive will protect both your life and the lives of other drivers around you.

You can also contact the Public Information Officer of your particular Department of Transportation district to get information on construction zones and road projects. The more educated and aware we are as drivers, the safer our highways will be.

Every driver should have the proper amount of car insurance on his or her vehicle. Enter your zip code below into our FREE search tool below, and let us help you find the best coverage for the lowest price in your area today!

Complete Rankings

– To sort table by category, click on header columns.

StateInterstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of InterstatePercent of Drivers w/o SeatbeltsHighway Bridges Rated Obsolete or DeficientHighway Deaths per 1,000 Highway Miles TraveledFederal FundingIIHS Death RatesTotal ScoreRank
South Carolina4441333839462411
West Virginia2225343764416817
Rhode Island4739491610316419
North Carolina35132520293315523
New Mexico259647224315225
New York1317471846214331
South Dakota64494053914332
New Hampshire949353261313534
New Jersey511451147412342
North Dakota23812743710946

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