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Worst Drivers by State (Case Study)

Click here for rankings table and click here to view interactive maps

Here's what you need to know...
  • 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.

Methodology

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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:

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

To see all of the statistics and find links to the most up-to-date NHTSA reports our results are based on, click here.

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

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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.

Over 46 percent of the tragic traffic deaths that happen here involve a driver who isn’t in a physical state to be operating any sort of machinery, let alone a vehicle on a public road.

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

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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.

Delaware has been on our worst driver list since 2014, and it has always been in the top three for the state with the most careless drivers.

In 2015, a shocking total of 38 Delaware citizens were saving gas and burning calories by walking or biking to their destination when they were struck and killed by a careless motorist.

There is nothing small about the Small Wonder’s driving problems.

#8 (Tied) – North Carolina

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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

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Best Ranking: Fatality Rate – 28th
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving – 3rd

With a total of 61 pedestrians and pedalcyclists killed by motorists in 2015 alone, New Mexico has far too many careless drivers — the third most in the country!

“‘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

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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:

As much as we like to see progress, 977 fatalities in just one year in just one state is a catastrophic problem. That is nearly 1,000 deaths that could have been prevented simply by driving safely!

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

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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.

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.

For the fate of all those who live in Nevada, we hope that the drivers in this state start obeying the driving laws and traffic safety devices put in place to keep them safe.

#4 – Texas

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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

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

Louisiana lands towards the top of this list every year, and in 2011, 2013, and 2016 it won the embarrassing title: The State with the Worst Drivers in America.

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:

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

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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

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Best Ranking: Careless Driving – 29th
Worst Ranking: Failure to Obey – 1st

Montana, not only finds itself on our Worst Driver list every single year, but it has been awarded first for having the worst drivers in the entire U.S. in 20142015, and now again in 2017!

In addition to the huge jump from 10th to first since last year, Montana drivers are looking pretty bad in all five categories:

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.

Right in line with its “Cowboy Country” reputation, Montana didn’t have set daytime speed limits on major highways until 1999, and it was legal (yes legal) to drink and drive until 2005!

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:

  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 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?

Terrifying Totals

Brace yourself, here are the 2015 nationwide vehicle collision death totals:

These aren’t just numbers. These were peoples’ lives cut short. This data isn’t here to entertain, it’s purpose is to motivate change.

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

Complete Rankings: Worst Drivers

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

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

StateFatalities Rate per 100 Million Vehicle Miles TraveledFailure to Obey (Traffic Safety Device, Seat Belt, & Invalid Driver License)Careless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeedingTotal Score2017 Ranking2017 Ranking (archive)
Montana2129464211
Arizona107615155322
Louisiana6249385933
Texas1118115206544
Nevada195719166655
South Carolina126529117266
New Mexico282632648777
Delaware1711132309189
North Carolina2221152679188
North Dakota141943218961010
Alabama18141032261001111
Maine292931391011212
Mississippi310834491041313
Rhode Island50349131061414
California3517925231091518
Colorado305353181091515
Hawaii394019651091516
Oklahoma1291741311101817
Missouri24142045141171919
Wisconsin3983713241212020
Kentucky432546451232121
Wyoming6294722191232121
Florida925237511242323
Illinois35333313101242323
Oregon2147186321242323
Alaska16422626171272626
Arkansas5212829461292727
Tennessee19162135421332828
Pennsylvania2636363721372929
Idaho15135120391383030
Indiana31112649251423131
Connecticut4528348281433232
New York43362122211433232
District of Columbia49421417221443432
New Hampshire4442481211473535
Kansas27204550131553636
South Dakota8235039361563736
Washington35383224271563736
Georgia24321247431583939
Nebraska23313818481583940
Maryland4251239351604141
Michigan32501635291624242
West Virginia12354243341664343
Utah38232451401764444
Massachusetts5145409331784545
Vermont46463048121824646
Ohio32333839441864747
Virginia39384120501884848
New Jersey47481344371894948
Minnesota48414615411915050
Iowa34484442472155151


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