Worst Drivers By State (2011 Study)

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Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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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. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Dec 3, 2020

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It’s the eternal question: which state has the worst drivers? While you may think your state has the worst drivers in the nation, especially when that guy pulls an illegal left turn in front of you, we decided to put it to the test. With bad driving comes high car insurance rates so be careful!

We compiled data from three sources: the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (driving fatalities), the American Motorists Association (which states hand out the most tickets), and MADD (drunk drivers).

Then we translated all of this information into rankings: the lower the ranking, the worse the states were. For example, the state with the most tickets, Florida, got a 1 on the scale. Then we added up the numbers to give each state a score; the lower the score, the worse the drivers. If you find yourself in one of these states, expect your state rates for car insurance coverage to be higher than other states!

One can save on car insurance by taking the time to use our ZIP code search! We will help you find cheap car insurance for whatever state you live in!

The numbers surprised us. Here are the top 10 spots (11 states due to a tie at 10th place), in descending order:

The Ten States With the Worst Drivers:

#10) South Carolina (tie)

South Carolina residents are not careless drivers: according to our data, they’re the third most careful drivers in the Union. But somehow, that doesn’t apply to stop signs or turn signals: they also pulled a miserable 45 for obeying the signs on the road. We’re pretty sure that’s why they pulled an abysmal 48 on the fatality rankings, locking them squarely in number 10. At number 10, South Carolina car insurance won’t be as high as some of the other states!

#10) Nevada (tie)

Nevada can be an expensive state if you were born with a lead foot – the state came in 3rd for ticketing. It’s also a state made up of formerly disobedient children, as can be seen by their abysmal rating of 7th worst state when it comes to obeying traffic laws. It’s not all gloom and doom though, Nevadians (Nevadans?) placed 47th when it came to drunk driving and 29th for careless driving.

#8) Alabama (tie)

Alabama residents are pretty careful too: they got a 7 in our rankings. But not careful enough: they got a 41 in disobeying traffic laws and a whopping 46 for tickets and awful 42 for fatalities. So if you’re going to a Crimson Tide game, drive carefully. There might be some crazy traffic laws in Alabama, but that doesn’t mean one can disobey them

#8) Montana (tie)

Good news: Montana had the highest ranking in tickets! Bad news: they had the lowest ranking in fatalities, the second lowest in drunk driving, and pulled a nasty 40 on carelessness. Maybe they should start ticketing more. Montana drivers should start being safer or else their tickets will raise their Montana car insurance!

#7) Kentucky

We’ll leave it to Kentucky to tell us which is worse: driving drunk or driving carelessly. They’ve got enough experience dealing with both to make an informed decision: they ranked 42 and 48, respectively. That means they’re the seventh worst state for fatalities…and, not coincidentally, seventh on the list. Maybe if drivers within Kentucky stopped breaking DUI laws, the statistics would be lower!

#6) Arizona

Arizona is out of the bottom twenty in only one place; carelessness, where it pulls a 29. No wonder it’s sixth on the list. Wonder how much Arizona car insurance is for being sixth on the “Worst Drivers” list? Compare car insurance and find out!

#5) Oklahoma

Oklahoma actually has one thing to be proud of: next to Florida, it has the best ranking out of the bottom ten for drunk driving. It sits at 25. The same isn’t true of fatalities or paying attention to signals, which is why it rounds out the bottom five. Drivers who have Oklahoma car insurance could help their state out by driving safely!

#3) Florida (tie)

Florida has at least one thing to be proud of: it’s in the top ten for drunken driving, at number 7. Unfortunately, it sits at the very bottom for tickets, and one away from the bottom slot for carelessness. All that puts it squarely in the bottom four, and makes Florida car insurance in the running for the highest state insurance!

#3) Texas (tie)

Texas is in the bottom twenty for every measure we had on this test, but it only gets in the bottom ten for one area: tickets. Unfortunately, its scores are so mediocre otherwise that it gets dragged down to number three. Which means Texas rates for car insurance can be higher than most states!

#2) Missouri

Missouri drivers get lots of tickets: Missouri scored a 45 on our rankings. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to teach Missouri drivers any lessons. Missouri is in the top ten for carelessness and drunken driving, and despite a decent score, 19, for obeying traffic laws, Missouri still wins the tarnished silver as the second worst state to drive in. Hopefully Missouri car insurance isn’t as high as their “Worst Drivers” ranking!

#1) Louisiana

Residents of the Bayou may object, but the numbers don’t lie: it’s in the bottom ten in all categories except one, failure to obey. It’s number eighteen there, but it’s so bad elsewhere that it beats Missouri by twelve points. With all of these “Worst Driver” factors, we hope Louisiana drivers are saving some money on their Louisiana coverage.

Here are some surprising trends you can pull from the data:

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The Further South You Get, the Worse It Is

The states with the best safety records tend to be up north. Massachusetts, for example, had the single lowest fatality rate of any state in the Union, according to the most recent statistics. Right behind the Bay State was Minnesota, which, despite ranking number four in the data for failure to obey traffic signals, was almost as safe.

Meanwhile, the further down the list you get, the more members of Dixie and the Old West start cropping up. The Southwest didn’t do much better; in all, the southern half of the country holds nine of the ten worst states.

This isn’t to say that if it’s cold and snowy you’re in the clear: Alaska and Montana were both in the bottom twenty-five.

Once You Leave the Cities, It Gets Really Dangerous, Really Fast

Almost all of the states in the bottom ten are largely rural, agrarian states. But it’s worth noting that the data also reflects how much people drive. For example, a small state with a major urban center, like Massachusetts, will have lots of residents, but many of them won’t be getting behind the wheel, which helps skew the numbers in their favor. Compare this to states that don’t have a lot of public transportation. They’re going to have higher traffic fatalities practically by default.

There are exceptions: Texas, due to it being vast, is in the bottom 25, despite having Houston, Austin, and Dallas/Fort Worth as major commercial and urban areas.

Ticketing Isn’t Much of a Deterrent

If you look at the rankings for the states that hand out the most tickets per capita, you’ll find something people may not like to hear: traffic tickets don’t have much of a deterring effect.

To be fair, part of that is our system. Florida, which hands out the most tickets, got a 1 added to its score, while Montana, which hands out the least, got a 50. On the other hand, they both wound up in the bottom fifteen of the list.

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The Best Way to Be the Worst State? Be a Careless Driver

Not shockingly, three of the ten worst states for drunk driving wound up on our top ten list. And, for failure to obey traffic signals, three states also bought a ticket onto the worst ten.

Careless driving? That made up five out of ten top-ranked states. Several states were ranked low in more than one category, but careless driving seems to be the real bullet: nine of the bottom twenty in carelessness made the bottom ten overall, compared to seven for failure to follow signals and eight for drunk driving.

All of this really drives home an important point: even if you follow traffic signals and drink responsibly, just get distracted by your cell phone and you’re as much of a menace as someone who staggers out of the bar and tries to drive home. That is why many states are making cell phone driving laws!

Complete Rankings

New Hampshire363627493918746
New Jersey4794340814739
New Mexico19414223513024
New York46735173413930
North Carolina1883021209712
North Dakota254818169813
Rhode Island483823504920850
South Carolina318216489611
South Dakota2347554312323
West Virginia44412473514232
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No matter where your state falls on our list, it’s best to be fully covered with quality auto insurance. To get the lowest rates for car insurance in your state, just type in your ZIP code into the box below, and we’ll give you the best car insurance quotes we can find, for FREE!

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