For the first time in over a decade, the nation has experienced three consecutive years of at least 40,000 roadway fatalities, according to the National Safety Council’s (NSC) preliminary estimates for 2019.
In 2018 alone, approximately 40,000 individuals lost their lives in auto accidents. These totals represent a mere 1 percent decline from 2017 and 2016, in which 40,231 and 40,327 roadway deaths were reported, respectively. In total, roughly 4.5 million people suffered severe injuries in car crashes last year.
Nicholas Smith, CEO of the NSC had this to say about these terrifying estimates:
“Forty-thousand deaths is unacceptable…We cannot afford to tread water anymore. We know what works, but we need to demonstrate the commitment to implementing the solutions. Roadway deaths are preventable by doubling down on what works, embracing technology advancements and creating a culture of safer driving.”
The NSC also reported a total of 18,580 motor vehicle deaths for January through June 2019 alone with an estimated annual death rate of 11.8 for every 100,000 residents.
Every year, our research team conducts an exhaustive study to bring you, the driving public, the latest data on the most dangerous states featuring the worst drivers in the U.S. Keep reading to find out if your state ranks on the list and get an inside look into our methodology to determine complete rankings by state.
10 States with the Worst Drivers in America
It’s no secret that dangerous drivers are everywhere.
According to a report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were an estimated 8,110 motor vehicle traffic fatalities — just in the first quarter of 2019.
It goes without saying that the greatest price we pay for auto accidents is the tragic loss of human life, but society also bears the impact of much of the astronomical costs incurred by motor vehicle crashes.
Car crashes don’t just impact the victims and their families. The effects of vehicle deaths on society as a whole in loss of life and loss of productivity are nothing short of staggering.
The estimated cost of motor vehicle fatalities, injuries, and property damage in the first half of 2019? $191.7 billion.
That’s $191.7 billion dollars in loss of life and productivity — just through June 2019.
To publish our annual study, our researchers collect the latest data from NHTSA for a total of over 3,000 data points. Each state is ranked by five key factors, including:
- The fatality rate per every 100 million vehicle miles traveled
- Failure to obey traffic laws including safety devices, seat belt, and invalid driver’s license
- Careless driving – number of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities per state
- Drunk driving – number of roadway deaths caused by drunk drivers
- Speeding – number of traffic fatalities caused by motorists violating speeding laws
The five categories above are totaled to reach 51 final scores for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The states with the ten lowest scores and the highest cumulative rankings comprise the areas containing the worst drivers in the country.
Without further ado, let’s take a deep dive into the 10 states with the worst drivers in America.
#10 – Nevada
Best Ranking: Drunk Driving – 33rd
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving – 6th
For the sixth time since our first annual study was released in 2011, Nevada motorists have found themselves ranked among the top 10 worst drivers in America. Not only that, but this is the third time since 2011 that the state of Nevada has ranked in the top 10 for careless driving, which means it has some of the highest rates of bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities in the nation.
In fact, a previous study we conducted found Nevada to be the deadliest state to take a walk, and things aren’t improving. Take a look at some more alarming statistics released by the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety for the first half of 2019:
“…[T]raffic deaths involving pedestrians are up 19 percent compared to last year, motorcycle deaths are up 8 percent, fatalities involving bicyclists are up 25 percent, while deadly accidents involving Mopeds and scooters are down 50 percent…Also trending down, alcohol-related fatalities, by a significant 17 percent.”
KTNV Channel 13 Las Vegas also noted the frightening rise in pedestrian deaths in a 2016 report featured below.
The good news: This is the third time since 2011 that Nevada motorists received their “best” ranking for drunk driving, placing 47th in 2011, 19th in 2017, and 29th in 2018.
#8 (Tie) – Montana
Best Ranking: Careless Driving – 34th
Worst Ranking: Failure to Obey – 4th
Since our first annual study eight years ago, Montana has consistently ranked among the top 10 states with the worst drivers in the U.S. This is the third consecutive year that The Treasure State has received its worst ranking for Failure to Obey.
Montana ranked first for Failure to Obey in both 2017 and 2018, with a slight improvement in 2019 where the state placed fourth in this driving category. Failure to Obey refers to driving failing to observe traffic control devices, not wearing seat belts, and driving with invalid licenses.
In January 2019, local news reports warn residents that fatalities on primary, urban, and rural Montana roads all increased in 2018.
Earlier this year, Vision Zero, The Montana Department of Transportation’s safe driving initiative, further revealed that there were 181 total roadway fatalities in the state in 2018.
Vision Zero focuses on educating the driving public, enforcing the state’s seat belt and impaired driving laws, engineering the state’s roadways to ensure safety for motorists, and funding and equipping emergency medical response services.
At the time of their 2019 release of findings, Vision Zero revealed that there had been 160 highway fatalities so far this year, as compared to 137 fatalities at the same time in 2018.
#8 (Tie) – Alabama
Best Ranking: Speeding – 31st
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving – 9th
Alabama is no stranger to the top 10 worst driving states either, having also ranked eighth in our 2016 and 2011 studies. Interestingly enough, in 2016, Alabama drivers also placed ninth for Careless Driving.
Alabama’s second and third-worst ranking factors were Traffic Fatalities and Failure to Obey, respectively.
A recent 2016 report released by the University of Alabama’s Center for Advanced Public Safety (CAPS) revealed the following about traffic violations and accident fatalities in the state:
- There were 47,653 reported injuries, representing an 8.25 percent increase in personal injuries
- There were a total of 155,907 car accidents in Alabama, representing a 5.73 percent increase
- Of these accidents, 994 were fatal, representing a 25.98 percent increase in traffic fatalities
- A total of 1,089 individuals lost their lives in fatal Alabama car crashes
- Roughly 60 percent of traffic fatality victims were not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash
- Motorists in Alabama have a one out of three chance of getting into a severe car crash at some point in their lifetime
From 2005-2015 the number of Alabama motor vehicle crashes increased by 15.23 percent, resulting in an increase of serious injuries by over 20 percent.
While our study found speeding to be Alabama’s best ranking factor of the five areas we analyzed, CAPS reports show speeding to be the leading cause of fatal auto accidents in the state.
In the video above NBC 15 reports a tragic pedestrian death in Orange Beach — allegedly caused by a drunk driver. According to the NHTSA, there were 246 drunk driving fatalities in The Yellowhammer State in 2018 alone.
Alabama personal injury attorney, Cade Parian, founding partner of the Parian Law Firm and recognized as a “Top 40 Under 40” lawyer, tells Car Insurance Comparison:
“Alabama loves its sporting events. College football and NASCAR are woven into its heart and soul. These sporting events draw over 100,000 people to any given city that is hosting…Sporting events are known for their tailgating parties. The prevalence of drunk driving is high. Enforcement of such presents big problems when sporting events are in towns across Alabama. This leads to many serious crashes.”
While drunk driving may not be The Yellowhammer State’s worst driving factor, clearly, this is another significant roadway danger that motorists should be aware of when driving on Alabama highways.
#7 – Missouri
Best Ranking: Careless Driving – 25th
Worst Ranking: Speeding – 9th
The Show-Me State placed on this worst driver list in 2018, 2014, 2013, and 2011. Check out the table below to see how Missouri has ranked among the 10 worst driving states since our inaugural study.
|Year||Category and Rank||Overall Ranking|
|2011||Best Ranking: Failure to Obey (32nd)|
Worst Ranking: Speeding (6th)
|2013||Best Ranking: Careless Driving (27th)|
Worst Ranking: Failure to Obey (4th)
|2014||Best Ranking: Careless Driving (25th)|
Worst Ranking: Speeding (11th)
|2018||Best Ranking: Drunk Driving (24th)|
Worst Ranking: Failure to Obey (13th)
|2019||Best Ranking: Careless Driving (25th)|
Worst Ranking: Speeding (9th)
Missouri received its most alarming overall ranking at the time of our first study in 2011 when the state placed as the second-worst in the nation for deadly drivers. The Show-Me State’s overall ranking has migrated down the list to show a slight improvement in the years following our first study, placing 10th in 2014 and 2018, and 7th both in 2013 and this year.
Clearly, speeding is a major problem for Missouri drivers, as the state has received its worst rankings in this category in 2011, 2014, and 2019.
According to Attorney Gabriel Levin, founding partner of The Levin Firm:
“Most people who choose to speed when driving do not consider it a significant problem. They feel that they simply pushed the vehicle a little faster, hopefully getting to their destinations sooner. Many drivers imagine that the worst thing that could happen includes getting a speeding ticket. Unfortunately, in reality, speeding can cause a number of problems for drivers.”
“Speeding increases the force involved in an accident. During an accident, the force applied to your vehicle and the other driver’s vehicle increases along with your speed. If you suffer an accident while speeding, you may have to deal with increased force, which can, in turn, cause worse injuries or increase the risk of serious injury or death in an accident.”
Failure to Obey traffic laws is another dangerous violation commonly seen on Missouri roadways, considering this was the state’s worst rating factor in both 2013 and 2018.
#6 – Colorado
Best Ranking: Drunk Driving – 25th
Worst Ranking: Failure to Obey – 3rd
For the first time in the history of our annual worst driver’s study, Colorado has placed on the top 10 list.
The Centennial State received its worst ranking for Failure to Obey traffic and safety laws, with Speeding being its second-worst ranking factor for motorists in the state.
The NHTSA reported 632 traffic fatalities in the state of Colorado in 2018 alone, of which 259 occurred on rural and 373 on urban roadways. Of these reported car crash deaths, 210 involved drivers who were speeding.
Aware of these serious safety concerns, local news stations warned state residents that traffic deaths were on the rise in The Centennial State. Below you can see where KKTV 11 News reports a recent increase in crash fatalities involving teen motorists specifically.
The number of traffic fatalities involving young motorists dropped by 50 percent in the late 90s, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), but the numbers started to rise again in 2017. In 2017 and 2018 alone, there was an average of 86 young drivers killed in fatal crashes, representing a 34 percent overall increase in teen roadway deaths.
With the failure to obey traffic and safety laws ranking as Colorado’s worst factor, it should come as little surprise that roadway fatalities in The Centennial State are only increasing.
#5 – Texas
Best Ranking: Speeding – 29th
Worst Ranking: Drunk Driving – 2nd
Since the time of our first study in 2011, Texas has remained a key player in the top 10 worst driving states in the nation, snagging a dreaded spot among the top four up until 2018.
This is the sixth time The Lone Star State has received its worst ranking for Drunk Driving, having made it to this prominent position in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.
To follow up on these alarming stats, take a look at the table below, which indicates the alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in Texas during this same period, based on the most recent statistics released by the NHTSA.
|Year||Drunk Driving Fatalities (BAC=.08+)|
#4 – Louisiana
Best Ranking: Speeding – 38th
Worst Ranking: Fatality Rate – 5th
Just like The Lone Star State, Louisiana has remained one of the top 10 worst driving states since our very first study. In fact, in 2011, 2013, and 2016, Louisiana took the number-one spot as the state with the worst drivers in America. This past year, for the first time, the Pelican State had its worst ranking be its overall traffic death rate.
In response to the increasing number of traffic deaths, Louisiana State Police recently launched a new initiative called Destination Zero Deaths with the Strategic Highway Safety Plan with the intent to reduce roadway-related fatalities and injuries.
In 2011 and 2015-2018, Failure to Obey was Louisiana’s worst ranking factor, revealing that drivers in the state have a major issue following key traffic laws regarding licensing, traffic signals, seat belt laws, and more. Another body of laws consistently broken by Louisiana motorists are those governing the minimum required levels of insurance coverage that all registered car owners must have to operate a motor vehicle.
“Louisiana…has a ‘no pay, no play’ state law,” shares David Reischer, Traffic Attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice.com, “meaning that an uninsured driver is limited to the compensation they can receive if they are in an auto accident with another driver even when the other driver is at fault. Louisiana state law is intended to dis-incentivize driving without insurance but still, about 13.2 percent of Louisiana drivers are uninsured.”
The “No Pay, No Play” law essentially punishes motorists who get behind the wheel without insurance coverage by not allowing them to receive the compensation they would have otherwise been entitled to. Reischer adds,
“Louisiana law specifically limits uninsured drivers from receiving compensation for non-economic damages — which includes pain and suffering damage. However, Louisiana law does not limit the ability for an uninsured driver to seek compensation for economic damages, for example, such as medical bills or auto repairs.”
Apparently, this law isn’t enough considering 13 percent of all drivers in the Pelican State are getting behind the wheel without coverage. Louisiana currently ranks 20th in the nation for its amount of uninsured drivers.
#3 – Arizona
Best Ranking: Failure to Obey – 21st
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving – 4th
The Grand Canyon State continues to make an appearance in our annual study, having ranked in the top 10 worst driving states five previous times—2011, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Arizona also ranked among the top five once before, in our 2017 study, when the state snagged the number two spot for the deadliest drivers in the nation.
Careless Driving has been named Arizona’s worst ranking factor every year since our 2015 study. This means that pedestrians and bicyclist fatalities comprise the most significant number of roadway deaths in the state.
In 2018, the Arizona Governor’s Highway Safety Association’s reported the Grand Canyon State is the second deadliest state in the entire country for the rate of pedestrian fatalities per capita.
The GHSA found that pedestrian fatalities comprised an astonishing 16 percent of all roadway deaths in 2018, noting that distracted driving was one of the reasons for this startling rise in pedestrian deaths. Arizona is also the fifth most dangerous state for bicyclists, according to the NHTSA.
Not only this, but traffic fatalities were at their highest in 2018 for the first time in over a decade, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s (ADOT) annual crash facts report. ADOT’s data reported 1,010 fatalities on Arizona roads in 2018 alone, representing a 1.2 percent increase from the 998 roadway deaths that took place in 2017.
#2 – South Carolina
Best Ranking: Failure to Obey – 40th
Worst Ranking: Fatality Rate – 1st
South Carolina has ranked among the top three worst driving states in the nation six times. In fact, this is the fourth time in six years that South Carolina has claimed the number two spot as the worst driving state in the entire country.
WPDE ABC15 previously reported an initiative by the South Carolina Highway Patrol to decrease the alarmingly high incidence of roadway fatalities.
This is the sixth time since 2011 that South Carolina has received its worst ranking for its rate of Traffic Fatalities.
The South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS) released a preliminary report in July 2019, stating that in the first half of the year, 500 people had died in South Carolina highways. This number was just under the 535 roadway fatalities during the same period the previous year.
Of the 500 people who lost their lives in early 2019, 164 were not wearing a seat belt. This means 33 percent of those deaths could have potentially been prevented if those individuals had taken just a few moments to buckle up.
#1 – New Mexico
Best Ranking: Failure to Obey – 24th
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving and Drunk Driving – 3rd
In our number one spot for the absolute worst driving state in the nation, New Mexico is no stranger to this annual list.
This is the second time since our inaugural 2011 annual study that New Mexico has ranked first as the worst driving state in the nation. Also, New Mexico has continuously remained among the top three most dangerous driving states in the country. Five times during the past eight years, the Land of Enchantment state has been awarded its worst ranking factor for its overall traffic death rate.
As of September of 2019, the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) reported 314 total traffic fatalities on New Mexico roadways, as compared to 287 and 280 at the same time in 2018 and 2017, respectively.
Back to our study, with drunk driving being one of New Mexico’s worst ranking factors in 2019, NMDOT’s data regarding fatalities by alcohol involvement is nothing short of distressing.
Of the 314 roadway fatalities reported in the first nine months of 2019, 84 of those were attributed to alcohol involvement. To break the numbers down further, this means that approximately 26.8 percent of roadway fatalities this year had alcohol to blame.
The drunk driving epidemic in New Mexico is further evidenced by a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in late 2018, entitled Evaluating Surveillance for Excessive Alcohol Use in New Mexico. The report noted the following:
“Prevalence of excessive alcohol use and alcohol-attributable mortality is much higher in New Mexico than in other US states. In 2010, excessive alcohol use cost the state roughly $2.2 billion.”
The table below shows New Mexico’s full ranking history over the years.
|Year||Category and Rank||Overall Ranking|
|2011||Best Ranking: Careless Driving (48th)|
Worst Ranking: Fatalities Rate (3rd)
|2013||Best Ranking: Failure to Obey (29th)|
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving (50th)
|2014||Best Ranking: Failure to Obey (31st)|
Worst Ranking: Fatalities Rate (1st)
|2015||Best Ranking: Failure to Obey (36th)|
Worst Ranking: Drunk Driving (3rd)
|2016||Best Ranking: Failure to Obey (34th)|
Worst Ranking: Fatalities Rate (1st)
|2017||Best Ranking: Drunk Driving (29th)|
Worst Ranking: Fatalities Rate (1st)
|2018||Best Ranking: Failure to Obey (17th)|
Worst Ranking: Fatalities Rate (1st)
|2019||Best Ranking: Failure to Obey (24th)|
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving and Drunk Driving (3rd)
Worst Drivers by State Map
The map above provides a helpful visualization of the states that are home to the absolute worst drivers in the nation.
Deadliest Driver Decisions
The three most destructive driving behaviors resulting in the greatest number of roadway fatalities in the U.S. are:
- Speeding — failing to heed the posted speed limit, racing, or driving too fast for conditions.
- Failure to obey — disregarding traffic and driving laws such as traffic control devices, seat belt usage, and licensing laws.
- Drunk Driving — driving under the influence of alcohol, generally with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher.
The chart below indicates traffic fatality totals for 2018, based on the most recent data released by the NHTSA’s 2018 Fatal Motor Vehicle Crashes study, along with the change and percent change in each category from 2017.
|Category||Total||Change Since 2017||% Change Since 2017|
|Pedestrians Killed in Traffic Crashes||6,283||+208||+3.4%|
|Pedalcyclists Killed in Traffic Crashes||857||+51||+6.3%|
|Passenger Car Occupants Killed in Traffic Crashes||12,775||-702||-5.2%|
|Light Truck Occupants Killed in Traffic Crashes||9,922||-264||-2.6%|
|Large Truck Occupants Killed in Traffic Crashes||885||+7||+0.8%|
|Motorcyclists Killed in Traffic Crashes||4,985||-244||-4.7%|
|Fatalities Involving Alcohol-Impaired Drivers||10,511||-397||-3.6%|
|Passenger Vehicle Occupants Killed While NOT Wearing a Seatbelt||9,778||-338||-3.3%|
|People Killed in U.S. Car Crashes||36,560||-913||-2.4%|
Fast Fatality Facts
If the startling figures from the previous section weren’t enough to set off alarm bells about the road dangers drivers in the U.S. face today, check out these Fast Fatality Facts below, drawn from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) most recent report and NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS):
- The month with the MOST traffic fatalities — July (3,514)
- The month with the LEAST traffic fatalities — February (2,514)
- The day with the MOST traffic fatalities — Saturday (6,424)
- The day with the LEAST traffic fatalities — Wednesday (4,647)
- Time of day with the MOST traffic fatalities — 3:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. (12,220)
- Time of day with the LEAST traffic fatalities — 3:00 A.M. to 6:00 A.M. (3,065)
- The state with the MOST traffic fatalities — Texas
- The state with the LEAST traffic fatalities — Vermont
- The state with the WORST drivers had a 1.45 death rate (New Mexico)
- The state with the BEST drivers had a 0.66 death rate (Minnesota)
The IIHS reported that in 2017, 37,133 individuals were killed in motor vehicle crashes. The lives lost occurred in 34,247 collisions involving a total of 52,645 motor vehicles.
Age and gender also have an impact on traffic fatality rates. According to the IIHS, for all age demographics, male motorists had a higher per capita crash fatality rate than females in 2017. Furthermore, males between the ages of 20 and 24 and 85 and up experienced the highest incidence of crash fatalities, with females aged 12 and under having the lowest rate of crash deaths.
Our extensive research process for our annual studies includes all 50 U.S. States and the District of Columbia. Our research team collects over 3,000 data points from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to rank all 50 states plus D.C. by the following chief categories:
- Fatality Rate: The number of traffic deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled
- Failure to Obey: Deaths involving failure to obey traffic laws (not wearing seat belts, ignoring traffic signals, or driving without a valid license)
- Drunk Driving: Traffic fatalities involving alcohol-impaired drivers
- Speeding: Deaths involving motorists who were speeding
- Careless Driving: The number of bicyclists and pedestrians killed by drivers for every 100,000 residents
The rankings for each of the five categories above were then totaled to achieve the final scores for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.
The states with the 10 highest cumulative rankings and lowest scores in each category comprise the ten states with the worst drivers in the U.S. For the purposes of this study, the highest rankings are equal to the highest number of traffic deaths and fatal crashes.
Complete Rankings by State
The table below illustrates how each state in the nation, including the top 10, ranks for the worst driving behaviors. The lower a state ranks in each category, the worse its performance is in that specific classification.
We’ve also included the year-over-year rankings in 2015-2018 for comparison purposes alongside the 2019 rankings in the last four columns on the right.
|State||Fatality Rate||Failure to Obey||Careless Driving||Drunk Driving||Speeding||Total Score||2019 Rank||2018 Rank||2017 Ranking||2016 Rank||2015 Rank|
|District of Columbia||46||19||23||23||2||113||17||15||34||30||37|