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15 States with the Most Dangerous Drivers

Everyone believes they live in the state with the worst drivers—and depending on your state, you could be right. We talked to experts from highway safety and car insurers to find the most dangerous state. Is it time to move?

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How the states were ranked

U.S. traffic fatalities are on the rise, but it turns out that some states shoulder more blame than others. Using data obtained from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for 2017, Car Insurance Comparison ranked all 50 states from most dangerous to least, based on:

  • The fatality rate per 100 million miles traveled
  • The number of fatalities resulting from the failure to obey traffic laws, drunk driving, speeding, and careless driving

The complete results of the study provide rankings for each state plus the Washington, D.C., but these are the highlights.

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15. California: Careless driving

At number 15, California’s numbers aren’t quite as shocking as those of other states. However, its worst ranking is with regard to careless-driving fatalities, defined as the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed by motorists per thousand residents; it’s the ninth worst in the nation. According to insurance advisor Bradley Hamburger, the biggest cause of careless driving is distraction (checking phones, maps, radios, etc.), and distracted driving has surpassed drunk driving as a top factor in traffic fatalities.

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14. Rhode Island: The most drunk-driving fatalities

For a tiny state, Rhode Island has a tragically high rate of drunk-driving fatalities per capita. It also has the third highest number of fatalities relating to failure to obey traffic laws and speeding. This “triple threat” makes it the 14th worst driving state, despite the fact that it has relatively few total traffic fatalities; only Massachusetts has fewer.

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13. Mississippi: Too many traffic fatalities in general

The biggest factor here is that Mississippi has the third highest number of traffic fatalities in the nation. It also has the eighth highest number of fatalities relating to careless driving and the tenth highest of fatalities relating to a failure to obey traffic laws, including running traffic lights, not wearing a seatbelt, and failing to have a valid license.

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12. Maine: Drunk and speeding

Although Maine drivers tend to be less distracted drivers, they have the third highest number of drunk driving fatalities in the nation. It also has the ninth highest number of speeding-related fatalities. These two factors help make Maine drivers the 12th worst in the nation.

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11. Alabama: Not paying attention

None of Alabama’s rankings are notably horrible. However, none of its rankings fill us with confidence about Alabama’s drivers either. Most notably, Alabama ranks tenth in careless-driving fatalities and 14th for failure-to-obey fatalities. At least it doesn’t crack the top 15 in terms of overall traffic fatalities; it ranks 18th. You’ll also want to check out the most dangerous roads in the world.

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10. North Dakota: Too many drunk drivers

Since 2013, North Dakota has consistently been among the ten most dangerous states for driving, and it always ranks worst or second worst in the number of drunk-driving fatalities (this year, it’s second only to Rhode Island). While North Dakotans tend to be more careful about avoiding pedestrians and bikers, nearly half of all traffic deaths there are alcohol-related.

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9. North Carolina: Speed kills

After distracted driving, excessive speed is the second most dangerous factor for driving, according to Hamburger. Since North Carolina’s average state speed limit is high to begin with (70 mph), going much above that can get deadly very quickly. North Carolina ranks seventh highest in terms of speeding fatalities, earning it ninth worst overall.

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8. Delaware: Too many careless drivers

Small as it is, Delaware has the highest number of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities related to careless driving. They seem to be consistently bad, as well, since they’ve been in the top ten states with the most dangerous drivers every year since 2014. Make sure you know these 7 tricks to make yourself stop texting and driving.

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7. New Mexico: carelessness at high speeds

New Mexico ranks as the seventh worst driving state overall, mostly because the state has a high rate of careless driving and speeding fatalities. This may be about to change; New Mexico’s new “Careless Driver Law” imposes 90 days of jail time for being distracted behind the wheel. These are the things that will get you a speeding ticket besides speeding.

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6. South Carolina: Most traffic fatalities in the nation

Every year since 2013, South Carolina has been ranked as one of the most dangerous driving states. For 2017, it actually made it out of the top five, ranking sixth in terms of nation’s worst drivers overall. However, no state has a higher number of traffic fatalities than South Carolina, with nearly 1,000 during 2017.

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5. Nevada: Failure to obey plus careless driving

The little bit of good news for Nevadans is that although the state is the fifth most dangerous state for drivers nationwide, its overall number of fatalities—and drunk driving fatalities—land around the median. Unfortunately, Nevada drivers have the fifth worst failure-to-obey fatality rate and the seventh worst careless driving fatality rate. Don’t become part of the statistic; study up on these 11 driving etiquette rules you’ve forgotten since driver’s ed.

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4. Texas: Dangerous in every way

Texas is another state that consistently lands among the top five worst. For 2017, it’s ranked fourth and, for four years in a row, drunk driving has caused the most traffic-related fatalities there. Nationwide, Texas is the fifth worst state for drunk driving. But Texan drivers are pretty consistently bad in every category, according to the NHTSA.

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3. Louisiana: Dangerous in three ways

The third worst driving state overall is Louisiana, which has been ranked the worst three times since 2010 and has the sixth highest number of traffic fatalities overall. Louisiana also happens to have high rankings for fatalities relating to a failure to obey traffic laws (second), careless-driving fatalities (fourth), and drunk-driving fatalities (ninth). One good thing that can be said for Louisiana’s drivers is that they tend to respect speed limits. Check out these 11 crazy things people have actually done while driving.

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2. Arizona: Careless and inattentive

Two of the deadliest driving behaviors—drunk driving and speeding—are something Arizona is improving on; the state ranks only 15th worst in the nation. Unfortunately, Arizona drivers tend to be careless (sixth highest number of carelessness-related fatalities in the nation) and have an unhealthy disregard for the rules of the road (seventh highest number of failure-to-obey-related fatalities in the nation).

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1. Montana: The nation’s most disobedient drivers

Montana’s drivers have been ranked the nation’s worst three times since 2014, and even when it’s not rock bottom, it’s always among the ten worst. Montana drivers ranked poorly in all of the NHTSA’s categories of data, but the state truly distinguished itself as having had the highest number of fatalities due to disobeying traffic laws. It also had the second highest number of fatalities overall—just behind South Carolina—with 1.81 fatalities for every 100 million vehicle miles clocked. Next, find out the safest and most dangerous cities in America.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.