Worst Drivers By State – 2017
UPDATED: Sep 15, 2020
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- With 35,092 in 2015, traffic fatalities are on the rise in the U.S.
- Driving on U.S. public roads is more dangerous today than ever
- America has more fatal crashes than any other wealthy nation
- Our study involves 51 locations ranked by five main categories
- Learn where the worst drivers live and what they’re doing wrong
No matter how expensive or safe your vehicle, no matter where you’re sitting in the car,
NO ONE is invincible on the road.
It just takes one wrong move from one driver for everything in your life to come to a crashing halt before your eyes.
No amount of fame or wealth will protect you either. Princess Diana, James Dean, Paul Walker, Grace Kelly, and even professional race car driver Dale Earnhardt all had their lives cut short in fatal traffic collisions.
In the U.S. in 2015, 35,092 people died in crashes that involved 48,923 vehicles, costing about $242 billion. This was a 7.2 percent increase from the previous year and the highest number of traffic deaths in America since 2008.
The sad reality is that driving on U.S. public roads today is far more dangerous than ever before. There’s no excuse for it! America has more traffic deaths than any of the other 19 countries at our income level.
Here’s what we cover:
- The 10 States with the Worst Drivers
- Deadliest Driver Decisions
- Terrifying Totals
- Complete Rankings: Worst Drivers
- Worst Driver – Interactive Graphics (new post)
The 10 States with the Worst Drivers
Read on to discover where the worst drivers live and what destructive decisions they are making behind the wheel. Learn from their mistakes, before you too do something you can never take back.
#10 – North Dakota
Best Ranking: Careless Driving – 43rd
Worst Ranking: Drunk Driving – 2nd
Not only has North Dakota been on our Worst Drivers Top 10 every year since 2013, but it has wobbled between the ghastly first and second place for the state with the drunkest drivers those four consecutive years.
It is difficult to be excited about North Dakota’s low Careless Driving rate when 61 of the fatal collisions in this state involved motorists selfishly choosing to drive while impaired by alcohol.
The Peace Garden State needs to wage war on their drunk drivers before more unnecessary deaths occur.
#8 (Tied) – Delaware
Best Ranking: Drunk Driving – 32nd
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving – 1st
Even though Delaware is doing better than 31 areas in our study in the Drunk Driving category, it still had 45 people killed by a driver impaired by alcohol, which equals 45 too many.
There is nothing small about the Small Wonder’s driving problems.
#8 (Tied) – North Carolina
Best Ranking: Drunk Driving – 26th
Worst Ranking: Speeding – 7th
North Carolina just barely made it into the better half of the U.S. for Drunk Driving.
The deadly driving trend here is quite concerning with 1,379 traffic fatalities in 2015 (95 more than the previous year), and the fact that the Tar Heel State wasn’t even in the top 10 worst driver list the past three years.
The greatest driving failure in North Carolina is motorists pushing their tarry heels down on the gas pedal exceeding the already steep state average speed limit of 70 mph.
#7 – New Mexico
Best Ranking: Fatality Rate – 28th
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving – 3rd
“‘Pedestrian Hit by a Car’ is not an uncommon headline in New Mexico news.” — Davis Kelin Injury Law Firm
Fortunately, New Mexico leaders have taken this public safety concern seriously by passing a “Careless Driver” law that has motorists facing up to 90 days of jail time as determined by a judge in court.
In addition, The University of New Mexico’s CIPRE and the NMDOT have teamed up to launch a Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Initiative Project to educate citizens and make roads much safer for the community.
After three consecutive years on this Worst Driver list, hopefully, New Mexico citizens will save lives by actually watching the road while driving.
#6 – South Carolina
Best Ranking: Drunk Driving – 29th
Worst Ranking: Fatality Rate – 1st
Another state landing on the Worst Driver list every year has at least made some improvements.
Here’s how South Carolina has ranked in our study:
South Carolina is now ranking in the better half of the U.S. for fatal crashes caused by drunk driving, a big part thanks to Emma’s Law which was passed in 2014 after six-year-old Emma Longstreet was killed by a repeat DUI offender.
“It’s like in South Carolina it’s okay for people to drink and drive. . . . It’s not. It can destroy families. . . . We didn’t do anything wrong. We were wearing our seat belts. We were on our way to church.” — Karen Longstreet
Emma’s mom is right, it’s never “okay” to drink and drive, and the families of the 343 South Carolina citizens who were killed by an alcohol-impaired driver would wholeheartedly agree.
#5 – Nevada
Best Ranking: (Tie) Fatality Rate & Drunk Driving – 19th
Worst Ranking: Failure to Obey – 5th
In this study of the states with the worst drivers, Nevada ranked 10th in 2011, 12th in 2013, sixth in 2014, seventh in 2016, and now fifth this year. The Silver State is slowing creeping its way to the top with some of the worst drivers in our country.
With 325 total traffic fatalities — 1.25 killed every 100 million vehicle miles traveled — and a whopping 114 of those avoidable deaths being caused by drivers impaired by alcohol, Nevada’s “best” rankings land in the worst half of the U.S. and are clearly nothing good.
There’s even a campaign for Zero Fatalities in Nevada (see video below)
Nevada drivers’ greatest weakness (ranked the 5th worst state for it), Failure to Obey, is causing the most fatalities on the roads. This category includes:
- Ignoring Traffic Safety Devices – This serious driving fault alone caused 27 percent of Nevada’s traffic fatalities.
- Neglecting to Wear Seat Belts – 41 percent of those killed on Nevada roads probably could have lived had they been properly buckled.
- Driving with an Invalid License – Motorists driving while not legally licensed were involved in 17 percent of the deadly crashes in Nevada.
#4 – Texas
Best Ranking: Speeding – 20th
Worst Ranking: Drunk Driving – 5th
Ranking a top-five state with the worst drivers every year we have done this study, Texas has some of the most deadly roads in our nation. At least the Lone Star drivers weren’t awarded 1st place again like last year.
For the past four consecutive years, Texas’ driving behavior that’s killing the most people is drunk driving, and this year is no different with a total of 1,552 fatal crashes with an alcohol-impaired driver to blame.
Drinking alcohol causes slower reactions, dulled hearing, impaired vision, weakened muscles, and altered thoughts. Your brain begins to shut down. Driving is the LAST thing you should be doing while this is happening.
This video contains graphic content. Viewer discretion advised!
The horrific video above captured by a dash cam on August 4, 2017, in Fort Worth, Texas shows just how hazardous drunk drivers are — plowing down anyone in their way. Texas needs to put a stop to this.
#3 – Louisiana
Best Ranking: Speeding – 38th
Worst Ranking: Failure to Obey – 2nd
If it wasn’t for a lower ranking in Speeding, Louisiana would have maintained that infamous title two years in a row, because in every other category this year its drivers ranked top 10 — worst of the worst.
In 2015 and 2016, Louisiana ranked 1st (as the worst) for the category, “Failure to Obey,” and this year it’s still Louisiana drivers’ greatest weakness just a speck better at second worst in the nation.
Here’s why Failure to Obey is Louisiana’s greatest mistake:
- 184 motorists driving with an invalid license were involved in crashes where people died.
- 247 people died in crashes that could have lived had they simply worn their seat belt.
- 259 deadly crashes were caused by drivers ignoring traffic signs and signals.
Sadly, the above death counts only refer to fatal crashes in one year in one state. That’s far too many deaths that could have been prevented by drivers obeying the law.
#2 – Arizona
Best Ranking: (Tie) Drunk Driving & Speeding – 15th
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving – 6th
Two of the deadliest driving behaviors, driving drunk and driving at dangerous speeds, are fortunately Arizona’s best rankings, tied for 15th place. Although 322 fatal crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers and 307 with speeding as the cause is 629 worth of BAD making up their “best.”
Ranked 6th in 2011 and 2015 and 8th last year, for having the worst drivers, Arizona made a big leap in the wrong direction to land in 2nd this year. Arizona’s drivers being careless behind the wheel is the main reason for their treacherous climb to the top of the list.
With an alarming 182 people murdered in 2015 while walking or biking on Arizona public roadways, a climb up the steep cliffs of the Grand Canyon seems safer than commuting by foot or bike alongside the drivers in this state.
#1 – Montana
Best Ranking: Careless Driving – 29th
Worst Ranking: Failure to Obey – 1st
In addition to the huge jump from 10th to first since last year, Montana drivers are looking pretty bad in all five categories:
- Failure to Obey (1st place) – Forty-one deadly collisions involved someone driving with an invalid license, 59 fatal crashes involved drivers ignoring traffic signals, and 114 people were killed in crashes due to neglecting to wear a seatbelt.
- Fatality Rate (2nd place) – There were a total of 224 traffic deaths in Montana in 2015 alone, 32 more than the previous year, putting Montana at a rate of 1.81 fatalities for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
Director Mike Tooley of Montana Department of Transportation (DPT) said,
“Montana has taken an aggressive approach to deal with our number one contributor to an eventual fatality, and that is one vehicle roadway departure incidents. We have installed thousands of miles of centerline and shoulder rumble strips in areas that have a high concentration of those types of incidents. It is beginning to pay dividends.”
He also mentioned,
“[W]e are a large state geographically with just over 1 million people living here. The end result is vast areas of little to no population and a corresponding lack of availability of critical care. In fact, the nearest level 1 trauma center for most of our population is in Seattle. So serious crashes that might be survivable in other states often wind up being fatal in Montana.”
- Drunk Driving (4th place) – Over 41 percent of Montana’s deadly collisions involved a driver impaired by alcohol.
- Speeding (6th place) – Ninety-one fatalities on the road in this state were caused by motorists driving at speeds that were soon proven to be deadly.
- Careless Driving (29th place) – The one decent ranking for this state involved a total of 15 pedestrians and pedalcyclists being struck and killed by a moving vehicle. Hardly something to celebrate.
In 2011, Representative Alan Hale, a member of the Montana Legislature, defended drunk driving. He said the new DUI laws were hurting taverns and bars and calls driving drunk in Montana “a way of life.” See the video below.
The drivers in The Treasure State need to realize all they treasure in this world can vanish by one bad decision behind the wheel. Director Tooley highlighted this very fact when we asked him “What one thing could Montana drivers do to positively affect road safety?” He said, “To not take the act of driving for granted.”
Deadliest Driver Decisions
The three behaviors causing the most deaths on U.S. roads:
Every year we learn from NHTSA crash statistics that the same driving behaviors are costing the most lives.
These are not little mistakes. You can’t say “sorry” and make them go away. Each year the statistics tell the same story. . . . These driving behaviors are likely to end with inexplicable pain, isolating guilt, and lives forever lost. Is it worth it?
When will we learn? How many people have to die before Americans make an effort to drive safer?
Brace yourself, here are the 2015 nationwide vehicle collision death totals:
- Number of pedalcyclists killed by motorists – 818
- Number of pedestrians killed by motorists – 5,376
- Number of fatal crashes involving drivers with an invalid license – 6,573
- Number of fatal crashes involving drivers who were speeding – 9,557
- Number of people who died in crashes while not wearing a seat belt – 9,874
- Number of fatal crashes involving drivers ignoring traffic signals – 9,948
- Number of fatal crashes involving a driver impaired by alcohol – 12,074
- Total number of Americans who died in fatal car crashes – 35,092
Obey traffic laws and signals, wear your seat belt, never mix drinking with driving, set an example of safe driving for the younger generation. Do your part to make the roads in your state and country safer for those on foot, bike, and in the vehicles around you.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — Barack Obama
Our extensive research includes 51 areas, all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.
Using the most reliable source on the matter, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, we collected the data to rank all 51 areas of the U.S. by the following five main categories:
- Fatality Rate – The total number of traffic deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
- Failure to Obey – The number of road fatalities involving failure to use safety restraints and individuals ignoring traffic safety devices and driving illegally with an invalid license.
- Drunk Driving – The number of fatal crashes involving a driver impaired by alcohol.
- Speeding – The number of driving deaths involving a driver who was speeding.
- Careless Driving – The number of pedestrians and pedalcyclists (usually bicyclists) killed by motorists for every 100 thousand residents.
The rankings for the above five categories were totaled for 51 final scores. The ten lowest scores (highest cumulative rankings) belonged to the ten areas with the worst drivers in our nation.
Highest Rankings = Highest Number of Traffic Deaths
Complete Rankings: Worst Drivers
– To sort the table by category, click on header columns.
|STATE||FATALITIES RATE PER 100 MILLION VEHICLE MILES TRAVELED||FAILURE TO OBEY (TRAFFIC SAFETY DEVICE, SEAT BELT, & INVALID DRIVER LICENSE)||CARELESS DRIVING||DRUNK DRIVING||SPEEDING||TOTAL SCORE||2017 RANKING|
|District of Columbia||49||42||14||17||22||144||34|