Worst Drivers by State (2018 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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Here's what you need to know...

Over 90 percent of traffic deaths are caused by human error — in other words: bad drivers. If industry leaders GM and Waymo meet their current goals, we will have self-driving cars on U.S. public roads by 2019.

Autonomous cars will remove the driver from driving, and potentially save over 40,000 lives every year in the U.S. alone. But for now, we need to focus on the problem: treacherous drivers that are costing lives across our country.

Here are the disturbing preliminary estimates from 2017:

  • 40,100 people were killed on U.S. roads in deadly car crashes
  • Motor vehicle deaths increased by six percent in two short years
  • 4.57 million people sustained injuries that needed medical attention
  • The medical attention for injuries alone cost our nation $413.8 million

It’s no secret that car accidents cost time, money, and worst of all, innocent lives. Deadly drivers are everywhere, but thanks to this annual study, we can at least tell you which states are home to more than others.

Complete Rankings by State

In this highly anticipated annual study, we rank all 50 states plus D.C. according to five main categories, which include the biggest mistakes bad drivers make:

  1. Careless Driving
  2. Drunk Driving
  3. Ignoring Traffic Laws
  4. Speeding
  5. Death Rate

Read on to discover where the worst drivers in our country live. For all ten states, you’ll learn how their drivers stack up to the rest of the nation — what they do best and where they could use improvement. Do you live in a state with the worst drivers in America? Watch your mirrors!

– Complete Rankings by State

*Note: lower ranks indicate worse performance in each category.

– Year Over Year Rankings

– Worst Drivers by State in Each Category

10 Worst States by Category

Previous Studies

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10 States with the Worst Drivers in America

#10 – Missouri

Best Ranking: Drunk Driving – 24th
Worst Ranking: Failure to Obey – 13th

Not ranking on this dire top-ten list since 2014, it’s disappointing to see Missouri drivers have taken a turn for the worst. The “Show-Me State” doesn’t have one specific category it did horribly in, but it’s consistently ranked in the worst half of the United States in all five categories in this study.

There were 494 crashes, 186 injuries, 172 DWI arrests, and 14 deaths on Missouri roadways during the 2017 July 4th holiday alone.

Kansas City’s 41 Action News reports: “Drivers of all ages are not paying attention.” Missouri drivers need to make improvements across the board, but especially when it comes to abiding by traffic laws.

#9 – Texas

Best Ranking: Failure to Obey – 29th
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving – 8th

Since we started this study back in 2011, Texas has consistently ranked a top-four worst state in the nation. In 2016, Texas earned 1st in our study for having the worst drivers. It’s no means for a celebration, but drivers in the “Lone Star State” have actually made improvements to get themselves to this spot on our annual worst driver list.

Texas is still home to many of the worst drivers in the nation, and roadwork zones across the state have become deadly.

There were 27,148 car accidents in Texas’ work zones resulting in 813 serious injuries and 199 deaths in 2017.

According to CBS Dallas 11 News, “Usually those crashes are caused by speeding or driver inattention. The state has tried to get people to slow down in work zones by doubling the fines for speeding, but that doesn’t appear to be working.”

Texas motorists need to pay more attention — especially near construction — so that they won’t find themselves here next year.

#8 – Arizona

Best Ranking: Drunk Driving – 31st
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving – 4th

For the fourth straight year, Arizona has earned top-ten status for having the worst drivers in the nation. At least this year Arizona is ranked 8th — better than 2nd in 2017.

Careless driving is a huge problem across the “Grand Canyon State.” Here’s how Arizona ranked from 2013 to 2018 in this one critical category: 3rd7th, 3rd again, 5th, 6th, and now 4th.

ABC 15 Arizona says, “[D]riving while texting or talking on a cell phone can limit your brain activity by as much as 37 percent. That’s like trying to talk to two different people at the same time about two different things. You’re just bound to make mistakes.”

Arizona drivers need to stop being careless, put their phones down, and watch the road before someone else ends up in a neck brace or killed.

#7 – Montana

Best Ranking: Careless Driving – 38th
Worst Ranking: Failure to Obey – 1st

Since this annual study began seven years ago, Montana has always ranked a top ten state with the worst drivers. Three times since 2011 the “Treasure State” has earned 1st as the state with the absolute worst drivers in America.

Here are all the times Montana has ranked a top-five worst state in the nation for a driving category in our study. The list is so long, we had to make a table:

Year:Category & Rank:Overall Ranking:
2011Fatality Rate - 1st
Drunk Driving - 2nd
2013Fatality Rate - 1st
Drunk Driving - 1st
2014Drunk Driving - 1st
Fatality Rate - 3rd
Speeding - 5th
2015Fatality Rate - 1st1st
2016Fatality Rate - 3rd
Drunk Driving - 5th
2017Failure to Obey - 1st
Fatality Rate - 2nd
Drunk Driving - 4th
2018Failure to Obey - 1st7th
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The very first week of school in 2018 — in just one day — two students were struck by vehicles in Montana.

KTVQ News reminds drivers in Montana: “Billings Police now taking the opportunity to remind drivers to be alert for kids now that school is again in session.”

It’s a bad sign when drivers need a reminder to be alert so they don’t hit kids on the road.

#6 – Nevada

Best Ranking: Drunk Driving – 29th
Worst Ranking: Failure to Obey & Careless Driving – 7th

For the fifth time since 2011, Nevada motorists have found themselves on this worst driver list. Clearly, failure to obey and careless driving are Nevada’s two biggest problems since it has ranked a top ten worst state in the U.S. seven times since 2011 in these two categories alone.

The horrifying crash in July of 2018 shows that even when your vehicle is fully stopped, you can still be killed by a careless (or asleep) driver.

To make matters worse, an earlier study performed by our researchers found the “Silver State” to have the deadliest sidewalks in America with nearly a quarter of all those killed in traffic accidents on Nevada roads being pedestrians.

#5 – North Carolina

Best Ranking: Fatality Rate – 21st
Worst Ranking: Speeding – 8th

This is the third time, second year-in-a-row, that North Carolina has landed on this list. The state is headed in the wrong direction, jumping from 8th to 5th in just one year.

For three consecutive years, North Carolina has ranked a top-ten worst state in the nation for having the most traffic deaths caused by speeding.

When speed limits are ignored, car accidents resulting in devastating deaths — like the one above in April 2018 — are all too common.

It’s not just the drivers that are the problem. North Carolina was ranked 5th for having the most dangerous highways in the nation, and the state only has 10 cents per resident available in highway funding to make them safer.

#4 – Louisiana

Best Ranking: Speeding – 38th
Worst Ranking: Failure to Obey – 2nd

Since the start of this study seven years ago, Louisiana has consistently ranked 6th or higher. In fact, the “Pelican State” was found to be home to the worst drivers in American three times: in 2011, 2013, and 2016.

It’s a shame Louisiana has yet to take part in the global effort, Vision Zero:

This southern state has a wide array of deadly driving decisions that need immediate attention.

Here are all the times Louisiana ranked a top five worst state in one of the five categories used for this study:

Year:Category & Rank:Overall Ranking:
2011Fatality Rate - 2nd
Careless Driving - 4th
2013Careless Driving - 4th
Failure to Obey - 5th
2014Careless Driving - 4th6th
2015Failure to Obey - 1st5th
2016Failure to Obey - 1st
Careless Driving - 5th
Fatality Rate - 5th
2017Failure to Obey - 2nd
Careless Driving - 4th
2018Failure to Obey - 2nd
Careless Driving - 5th
Fatality Rate - 5th
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#3 – New Mexico

Best Ranking: Drunk Driving – 13th
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving – 2nd

From 2011 to 2014, New Mexico drivers were doing well, but in just one year they took a major plummet from 19th all the way to 2nd place for being the worst in the country. Since 2015, New Mexico drivers have ranked among the worst in the nation: 2nd in 2015, 6th in 2016, 7th in 2017, and now another big jump back to 2nd.

Even when New Mexico wasn’t ranked in the top ten states for having the worst drivers, it was always ranked as a top-five state for the most fatalities caused by careless driving.

In 2016, New Mexico had more people killed by careless drivers than anywhere else in America.

Unlike Montana and Louisiana, each year New Mexico’s only ranked in the top five in one area:

Year:Category & Rank:Overall Ranking:
2011Careless Driving - 5th24th
2013Careless Driving - 5th29th
2014Careless Driving - 2nd19th
2015Careless Driving - 5th2nd
2016Careless Driving - 1st6th
2017Careless Driving - 3rd7th
2018Careless Driving - 2nd3rd
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It’s not just New Mexico residents who are affected by the perilous drivers who call this state home. As you can see in the above video, gruesome accidents with multiple fatalities also involve those just passing through.

A survivor in the semi/Greyhound collision shared with CBS reporters, “It was horrifying. Like, I’ve never actually seen in my life a bus look like a ripped open sardine can. . . . My experience of what I’ve seen today, I mean, some stuff that I’ve only thought I’d end up seeing on TV.”

New Mexico has a serious careless driving issue on their roadways.

#2 – South Carolina

Best Ranking: Failure to Obey – 17th
Worst Ranking: Fatality Rate – 1st

South Carolina is no stranger to this study. Since 2011, every year South Carolina has ranked a top ten state with the worst drivers in America. Four years: 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2018 South Carolina drivers were nominated as the worst (or second worst) drivers in the nation.

Like Montana and Louisiana, South Carolina drivers have had several weaknesses that we have uncovered with this study. Below are all the times the “Palmetto State” was a top five worst state in one of our deadly categories:

Year:Category & Rank:Overall Ranking:
2011Fatality Rate - 3rd10th
2013Careless Driving - 2nd
Drunk Driving - 3rd
Fatality Rate - 3rd
2014Fatality Rate - 1st
Careless Driving - 5th
2015Drunk Driving - 3rd
Fatality Rate - 4th
2016Fatality Rate - 1st3rd
2017Fatality Rate - 1st
Careless Driving - 5th
2018Fatality Rate - 1st
Careless Driving - 3rd
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In the seven years we have done this study, South Carolina has always been ranked a top-four state in the fatality rate category — four years it has had the highest death rate in the entire nation.

In 2016 there were 1,015 people killed in traffic accidents in South Carolina (20 percent increase since 1994), which means nearly two people killed for every one million miles traveled by vehicle.

Thankfully, South Carolina has joined four other states in “Operation Southern Shield” in attempts to improve road safety:

  • Harris Blackwood, Director at the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, says, “We’re trying to get people to understand that, that speed limit sign on the highway is a limit. It is not a good suggestion or a nice idea. It is the limit. It’s what that road is engineered for, and we want people to slow down and get home safely.”
  • In another local ABC news video, Blackwood said, “They are accusing us of things like trying to raise revenue… It’s not about revenue it’s about saving lives.”
  • SC Highway Patrol Captain Keith Grice says, “To us traffic fatalities are personal. Anytime there’s a traffic fatality in my area, the first thing I say to myself is ‘What could we have done to prevent that?'”

#1 – Alaska

Best Ranking: Careless Driving – 21st
Worst Ranking: Drunk Driving – 2nd

In our 1st place spot for the absolute worst state in the nation for bad drivers, we come to a first for this 7th annual study.

For the first time in the history of this annual study, a state that has never even ranked in the top ten earns 1st for having the worst drivers in the nation.

From 2011 to 2017, there were only two times Alaska ever ranked a top five worst state in any category! Those were 3rd for drunk driving in 2011 and 5th for speeding in 2015. Now just a year later, Alaska ranks a top-ten worst state in four out of five categories:

  • Drunk Driving – 2nd
  • Failure to Obey – 8th
  • Fatality Rate – 4th
  • Speeding – 6th

What is going on in Alaska to bring about this destructive behavior and the resulting spike in traffic deaths? Alaska State Troopers have been busy, and moose have been the least of their concerns.

  • Anchorage Daily News was 100 percent correct when in November of 2016 they published, “Alaska roads are on track for one of the deadliest years in the last decade.”
  • In that article, Megan Peters with the Alaska State Troopers explained, “Crashes that kill more than one person may be contributing to the spike, in 2014, troopers responded to three crashes with three deaths each plus a single double-fatality crash, but only two double-fatality crashes in 2015. There have already been five multiple-fatality crashes this year.”

The Alaska DOT partly blames the $60 million in budget cuts for the increase in traffic deaths, which greatly decreased manpower for road work and snow removal across the state. And, as we found with this study, they also reported an increase in car crashes where drivers were failing to wear their seat belts and driving distracted, impaired, or too fast.

Deadliest Driver Decisions

Here are the three behaviors causing the most deaths on U.S. roads:

  1. Driving while disregarding laws
  2. Driving distracted and careless
  3. Driving while impaired by alcohol

Every year we learn from NHTSA crash statistics that the same bad driving decisions are costing the most lives.

Terrifying Totals

Below is a chart illustrating the 2016 nationwide traffic death and fatal crash totals, percent change from 2015, and the year with the record highs for each category:

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These aren’t just numbers and broken records. These are lives cut short and broken hearts left behind.

This data isn’t here to entertain, it’s purpose is to motivate change. Plus most companies reward good drivers with discounts.

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Fatality Fast Facts for 2016

  • Month with the LEAST crash deaths: January (2,538)
  • Month with the MOST crash deaths: October (3,526)
  • Day with the LEAST crash deaths: Tuesday (4,444)
  • Day with the MOST crash deaths: Saturday (6,802)
  • Time of day with the LEAST deaths: 3am-6am (3,265)
  • Time of day with the MOST deaths: 6pm-9pm (6,255)

39 states experienced an increase in traffic deaths from 2015 to 2016.

  • State with the LEAST crash deaths: Rhode Island (51)
  • State with the MOST crash deaths: Texas (3,776)
  • The state with the WORST drivers had a 1.6 death rate (Alaska)
  • The state with the BEST drivers had a 0.66 death rate (Minnesota)


Our extensive research includes 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 over 3,000 data points to rank all 51 areas of the U.S. by the following five main categories:

  1. Fatality Rate: number of traffic deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled
  2. Failure to Obey: deaths involving drivers ignoring traffic signs or without a license and people not wearing seat belts
  3. Drunk Driving: fatal crashes involving drivers impaired by alcohol
  4. Speeding: traffic deaths involving drivers who were speeding
  5. Careless Driving: number of pedestrians and pedal cyclists 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 Fatal Crashes and Traffic Deaths

Below are direct links to additional sources:

– 2015 to 2016 Percent Change: NHTSAIIHS, and FARS
– Historical Records: NHTSA: 1982-2010 and FARS 1994-2016

Media Inquiries About Our Study

– Click here for the full stats and sources for each category. For all media inquiries, please email: Josh Barnes


  1. https://one.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/udashortrpt/background.html
  2. https://www.zdnet.com/article/dossier-the-leaders-in-self-driving-cars/
  3. https://www.nsc.org/road-safety/safety-topics/fatality-estimates
  4. https://www.missourinet.com/2017/07/05/14-killed-in-missouri-crashes-over-july-fourth-weekend-man-arrested-for-dwi-crash-that-killed-three-adrian-residents/
  5. https://abc13.com/traffic/txdot-warns-drivers-after-spike-in-deaths-in-roadwork-zones-/3355048/
  6. https://www.txdot.gov/driver/share-road/work-zones.html
  7. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/13c6TnUuAmyFAQH3mkCunVVQU_6_wzGoZQHJHkhNgEPs/edit?usp=sharing
  8. https://ktvq.com/news/local-news/2018/08/24/two-students-struck-by-cars-in-separate-incidents-friday/
  9. https://news3lv.com/news/local/serious-multi-vehicle-crash-shuts-down-us-93-northeast-of-las-vegas
  10. https://www.wsls.com/news/virginia/roanoke/roanoke-woman-her-two-daughters-die-in-nc-car-crash
  11. https://visionzeronetwork.org/resources/vision-zero-cities/
  12. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-mexico-bus-crash-semi-truck-greyhound-survivor-describes-horror/
  13. https://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/States/StatesFatalitiesFatalityRates.aspx
  14. https://www.foxcarolina.com/news/operation-southern-shield-starts-today-in-sc-other-states/article_9b6779f8-2ae4-5f00-aab4-8b70ed4cd090.html
  15. https://dps.alaska.gov/AST/Home
  16. https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/2016/11/24/alaska-traffic-fatalities-up-sharply-so-far-in-2016/
  17. https://www.nhtsa.gov/press-releases/usdot-releases-2016-fatal-traffic-crash-data
  18. https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812581
  19. https://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/general-statistics/fatalityfacts/overview-of-fatality-facts
  20. https://www.nhtsa.gov/
  21. https://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/People/PeopleDrivers.aspx
  22. https://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/People/PeopleRestraints.aspx
  23. https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812450
  24. https://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/States/StatesPedestrians.aspx
  25. https://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/People/PeoplePedalcyclists.aspx
  26. https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812318
  27. https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/811659

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