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Best Drivers in the U.S. by State [2020 Study]


Things to remember...

  • The top 10 states have an average of 0.8 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled
  • The bottom five states have an average of 1.5 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled
  • The top 10 states were all over the country, but the bottom five were concentrated in one region

See this year’s complete rankings

In 2018, there were 33,684 fatal crashes in America. That averages out to 92 per day, or around four per hour. The problems that Americans face on the road are well known. Drunk driving, speeding, even not wearing a seat belt, all cost Americans thousands of lives each year.

Those are all very grim and serious issues, and they affect all states, even the best ones. Fortunately, this piece has some of the good aspects of driving in America as well. Instead of solely focusing on the issues that demand our attention in the news or on the Internet, we start with the states that are the best of the best and highlight their positives, characteristics that make them stand out above the rest.

Of course, there are other parts too. We rank the five states with the worst drivers in the country as well as the regions in the country by their drivers as well. We looked at nearly 2,000 data points for this study, including information about the above-mentioned topics, careless driving, and overall death rates.

The data came from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for

the year 2018. Let’s dive in.

Table of Contents

10 States with the Best Drivers

Your states with the best drivers come from all over the country. Some are in the Midwest; others are in the Northeast. One is in the South, and two are in the West. Their population size differs as well. We have some of the smallest states and some of the largest.

We rank these states into five categories, most of which have at least one subcategory. Those are death rate, failure to obey, careless driving, drunk driving, and speeding. What makes these states different from the rest of the country? Let’s find out.

#10 – Ohio

Worst ranking: Failure to Obey – 20th
Best ranking: Speeding – 8th

Coming in at number 10 on this list is the Buckeye State, where automobiles meet the shores of Lake Erie. It may be last on this list, but this is the podium for the best drivers in America. Everyone here gets a ribbon.

Where does Ohio stand against all states for all categories? Check out this table:

Death RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank

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It is in the top 20 in all categories with the best rank being 8th for speeding and the worst, 20th, for failure to obey. But those are just numbers. What exactly makes up the failure to obey and speeding categories?

First, let’s start with failure to obey. While the first thing you might think of when hearing this term is a police chase, our category is made up of three smaller, but still deadly problems: whether a safety device like a traffic light was involved, seat belt use, and a driver having an invalid license.

The truth is that Ohio’s subrankings don’t change much. But they aren’t great either. Ohio ranked 22nd for fatal crashes involving traffic safety devices. For no seat belt used, it ranked 21st. For involving an invalidly licensed driver, it was 22nd.

Its total fatal crashes for the subcategories vary considerably. In 2018, there were 306 fatal crashes involving a safety device, 400 where someone wasn’t wearing a seat belt, and 220 where one of the drivers had an invalid license (or lack thereof). Now, how about the statistics for speeding?

Total DeathsSpeed-Related DeathsSpeeding Deaths Per CapitaSpeeding Rank

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This is where Ohio really shines. Of its 1,179 total traffic deaths in 2018, just 252 came from speeding, which represents just 2.2 percent of its population. Its speeding rank is actually better than four of the other top 10 states. Part of the reason might have to do with the enforcement of the speed limits through speed cameras.

While Ohio is certainly not alone in the use of speed cameras, the issue has gained a fair amount of controversy in the state. As seen in the video, lawmakers and local municipalities are fighting over their use, with citizens’ rights and safety becoming the centers for each argument.

That is not atypical of the larger argument in America over enforcement tools such as speed cameras and red-light cameras. These can be seen by some as a money grab. Others, meanwhile, will focus on reduced accident rates.

#9 – Utah

Worst ranking: Careless driving – 22nd
Best ranking: Drunk driving – 4th

The land with some of the most beautiful geography in America comes in at number nine on this list. Utah is strong in three categories, but performs less than admirably in two of the categories, posting some very not-so-good scores:

Death RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank

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While there were two top 10 entries, Utah lays an egg for failure to obey and careless driving. A closer look at careless driving shows that Utah has some high death totals for pedestrians and bicyclists in 2018.

  • Pedestrians killed: 42
  • Bicyclists killed: 6

Individually, the pedestrian death rate in 2018 was 1.4, while the bicyclist death rate was 0.2. These numbers are based on increments of 1,000 for its population. The idea is that for every 3,102 people (Utah’s total population is 3,102,000), there were 1.4 pedestrian deaths and 0.2 bicyclist deaths.

Its overall ranking was 22nd. Not sterling. But it shined when it came to the category of drunk driving:

Total DeathsDrunk Driving Deaths% per CapitaDeaths w/ BAC .01-.07% per CapitaDrunk Driving Rank

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Of its 273 deaths in 2018, just 67 came after someone drank and drove. Its 4th-place ranking makes it one of the best states for the drinking and driving issue. That’s positive.

This, along with its car seat laws mandating the use of seat belts and booster seats, decreases the potential number of traffic fatalities in the Beehive State.

Of course, Utah has clamped the screws on the issue of drunk driving. Just late in 2018, it announced that it would lower the BAC limit from .08 to .05. Restaurants and the tourism industry in Utah aren’t happy, and the new law has led to interesting experiments.

This data is for the 2018 calendar year, so it’s uncertain as to how the new law has affected Utah’s ranking. It appears, though, from some early reports — as will be covered by one of the experts in the expert section — arrests for DUIs are not actually on the rise, though there have been quite a few arrests in that BAC .05 to .08 category.

Utah is, in fact, the trendsetter in BAC limits, being the first state to lower the BAC limit to the now national standard of .08. Its policies seem to be working, given its ranking in this category.

#8 – New Hampshire

Worst ranking: Speeding – 43rd
Best ranking: Death rate – 3rd

The state with Nor’easters and a motto, “Live Free or Die,” that comes straight from the Revolution ranks 8th on this list, with impressive showings in four of our categories. It has one major, major problem though. Let’s take a drive through New Hampshire’s geography and get a taste of what it does well and what it does not:

Death RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank

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New Hampshire has the top-10 rankings in death rate, failure to obey, careless driving, and drunk driving. Failure to obey might be a surprise as New Hampshire has no specific law mandating seat belt use. It does have stringent car seat laws for children.

But what is New Hampshire’s Achilles’ heel? That lead foot. The speeding-related statistics down below are from 2018:

  • Speed-related deaths: 58
  • Speed-related deaths per capita: 4.3 percent
  • Rank: 43rd

Of its 102 total traffic deaths in 2018, 58 were from speeding. It has a speed-related fatalities per capita percentage of 4.3, which is based on one-thousandth of its population (1,343). These statistics mean that New Hampshire’s total of 58 speeding-related fatalities represents 4.3 percent of every 1,343 people in its population.

It’s a full 1.8 percent higher in speeding deaths per capita compared to the nearest top-10 competitor. A factor might be the weather, as snow and speed don’t mix.

In an NHTSA Highway Safety Plan where the government of New Hampshire applied for grants to curb traffic deaths, speeding was listed as an initiative. As written, the goal is to reduce speeding-related deaths to 53.4 by the end of the calendar year 2020.

While speeding may be a major problem in New Hampshire, the other categories are not. Its best is its death rate. Its 0.8 rate is .4 lower than the national rate and lower than all but two of the top-10 states. That 0.8 is based on 100 million vehicle miles traveled, which means that for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled, there were 0.8 traffic deaths in 2018.

New Hampshire residents might speed, but they are doing a lot of other things right. And as for that drive through New Hampshire? It’s quite scenic, as this video shows.

This video takes the viewer along I-93 through Franconia Notch, which is a state park in New Hampshire. Scenic routes are often great for driving, as they keep a driver awake with constant new images, such as mountains, lakes, and fields. Perhaps this contributes to New Hampshire’s low death rate, along with the skill and presumed acumen of the drivers.

It’s somewhat remarkable that the state’s death rate would be so low considering its extremely high ranking in the speeding category. That may be balanced by its strong rankings in careless driving, failure to obey, and drunk driving. While residents of New Hampshire speed, they tend to do so while following other laws. This, perhaps, contributes to its low death rate.

#7 – Iowa

Worst ranking: Failure to obey – 22nd
Best ranking: Careless driving – 2nd

Iowa, the land of many cornfields and a surprising number of top 500 companies, comes in at number seven on this list. It nearly leads the charge in one category and spots a mid-level ranking for one of the others. The Hawkeye State, along with two other states on this list, seems to represent the unhurried nature of Midwestern driving.

The table below shows its overall rankings in each category:

Death RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank

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Iowa’s worst ranking is for failure to obey, ranking 22nd overall. Its worst ranking in that category is with fatal crashes involving traffic safety devices. This means that Iowans are having a little trouble obeying traffic lights and cones, compared to over half of America.

Check out these fatal crash statistics for 2018. They cover specific situations that were used for subrankings in failure to obey:

  • Involving traffic safety devices: 102 fatal crashes
  • With no seat belt used: 108 fatal crashes
  • Involving an invalidly licensed driver: 145 fatal crashes

The subranking for fatal crashes involving traffic safety devices compared to the rest of America was 34th. For no seat belt used, it was 21st. This is its best category in failure to obey and may reflect the hefty fines for car seat violations in Iowa. For involving an invalidly licensed driver it was 31st. In the past, some Iowa cities have used red-light cameras to enforce the laws.

In the video, a police officer shows a reporter how the red-light camera technology works in his district. Red-light cameras, a lot like speed cameras, have some detractors and supporters, and often the debate becomes polarized.

As with speed cameras, detractors of red-light cameras will point to incorrect tickets that were issued, among other issues. Proponents will argue that they reduce red-light runners and therefore one of the most dangerous types of accidents — the T-bone.

While failure to obey was not Iowa’s best category, careless driving was:

Pedestrians KilledBicyclists KilledPedestrian Death RateBicyclist Death RateCareless Driving Rank

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For careless driving, it’s ranked number two in the country, just behind our number one state overall, which also happens to be a Midwestern state. Just 23 pedestrians and five bicyclists were killed in 2018.

Its combined death rate is 0.9, one of just four states with death rates beneath 1. This means that for every 3,146 people in Iowa, there were 0.9 pedestrian and bicyclist deaths. Both its total deaths and its death rate are well below the national averages for those statistics.

#5 – Washington

Worst ranking: Careless driving – 23rd
Best ranking: Failure to obey – 5th

The state with evergreen trees, many distracted drivers, and a winding coast that poses a danger for all drivers comes in tied for 5th on this list. It has impressive showings in most categories, with a statistic that shows that Washingtonians follow the traffic laws more than most. The findings are in the table below:

Death RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank

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Washington’s weakness happens to be careless driving, where it ranks 23rd. In 2018, 103 pedestrians were killed in Washington, along with 14 bicyclists. Individually, the pedestrian death rate was 1.4, while the bicyclist death rate was 0.2, which means that for every 7,406 people in the Evergreen State, 1.6 pedestrians and bicyclists were killed. Its overall ranking was 23rd.

It rocked in one category—failure to obey, where it ranked 5th overall. The following 2018 data covers fatal crash statistics for the subcategories of failure to obey:

  • Involving traffic safety devices: 124 fatal crashes
  • With no seat belt used: 110 fatal crashes
  • Involving an invalidly licensed driver: 110 fatal crashes

The subranking for fatal crashes involving traffic safety devices was 8th. For no seat belt used, it was 7th. For involving an invalidly licensed driver it was 15th.

Looking at the statistics, Washingtonians obey the law. They stop at traffic lights and wear seat belts. This makes them different from residents of most other top-10 states. Washington has also enacted different initiatives to make their roads safer. One of those initiatives is the Target Zero initiative which aims to reduce traffic deaths in the state to zero.

In this video, the Washington Target Zero workers quiz residents of the Evergreen State about the different causes of traffic fatalities and ask them if fatalities will ever reach zero. They say no.

Washington’s Target Zero initiative, in part, aims to educate drivers on different causes of fatal traffic accidents. One of the main campaigns has been against distracted driving, as that is a major problem within the state. The deadline to reach the goal is 2030, which gives them a good 10 years. But, of course, it is a serious and challenging task.

#5 – New Jersey

Worst ranking: Careless driving – 39th
Best ranking: Speeding – 1st

New Jersey is a state known for many things, including Jersey Shore, Atlantic City, and some of the harshest penalties in the country for dangerous driving behavior. In this ranking, it comes in in a tie for 5th, with four good categories and one that leaves room for improvement:

Death RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank

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That score is in careless driving, for which New Jersey ranks 39th in the country. In 2018, 183 pedestrians and 17 bicyclists were killed, for a combined death rate of 2.2. Individually, the pedestrian death rate was 2, while the bicyclist death rate was 0.2. This means that for every 9,006 people in New Jersey, 2.2 pedestrians and bicyclists were killed. Its overall ranking was 39th.

There are many positives about driving in New Jersey though — most notably, every single other category. New Jerseyites are great drivers when it comes to not drinking and driving, obeying the law, and having a low death rate. But its best? Speeding, where it was 1st overall in the country:

Total DeathsSpeed-Related DeathsSpeeding Deaths Per CapitaSpeeding Rank

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Of its 624 total traffic deaths in 2018, just 120 came from speeding. While that 19 percent number (total speeding deaths divided by the 624 total traffic deaths) might seem high, that percentage is much, much higher when looking at all states. It ranked 1st out of all states in this category.

It always helps, of course, when you have citizens aiding the police, such as this man aiding police officers by following an out-of-control driver. He kept police officers informed of his position while staying a good distance away from a driver that was behaving erratically, endangering other motorists. It was all captured on dashcam video as well.

While it is uncertain as to why the man was driving like that, reckless driving, on the whole, is a serious offense, punishable by time in jail and a revocation of a license. Hopefully, the driver at least was meeting the New Jersey auto insurance requirements, as insurance is mandatory in the Garden State, and the driver caused quite a bit of damage.

In addition, that type of driving doesn’t just endanger fellow motorists. If it was on the city streets, the driver would be endangering pedestrians and bicyclists, which is New Jersey’s main issue, according to this study. While these are the best states, it’s a reminder that every one of them still has things to work on.

#4 – District of Columbia

Worst ranking: Careless driving – 29th
Best ranking: Failure to obey – 1st

Washington, D.C. is a district with stately historical monuments and difficult traffic (as noted in this guide to D.C. auto insurance), but there is one positive thing that may not be as well-known: Good drivers. The District of Columbia comes in at number four on this list, aided by a number one showing in a category many states have trouble in:

Death RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank

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Their worst category is careless driving, where they rank 29th. In 2018, 11 pedestrians and two bicyclists were killed. For those categories, the District had a combined death rate of 1.9, with a pedestrian death rate at 1.6 and a bicyclist death rate at 0.3. This means that for every 694 people in Washington, D.C., 1.9 pedestrians and bicyclists were killed.

But all that said, the District might not be stellar with careless driving, but it ranks 1st above every other state in one category: failure to obey. Check out these 2018 fatal crash statistics for the subcategories of failure to obey:

  • Involving traffic safety devices: 8 fatal crashes
  • With no seat belt used: 2 fatal crashes
  • Involving an invalidly licensed driver: 6 fatal crashes

The subranking for fatal crashes involving traffic safety devices was 4th. For no seat belt used, it was 1st. For involving an invalidly licensed driver, it was 5th.

How good is Washington D.C.? It ranks in the top six for all subcategories. Its best category — no seat belt used — has a 0.3 percent per capita. This means that for every 694 people in the district, just 0.3 percent of fatal crashes involve no seat belt used.

As the Washington, D.C. Police Department writes,

“The District has one of the strongest, most comprehensive seat belt laws in the nation. After the law was enacted in 1997, seat belt use increased 24 percent. Injuries were prevented. Lives were saved.”

There are a $50 fine and two points on the record for a first offense, and the law is primary enforcement. This means that a police officer can pull you over for just seeing you don’t have your seat belt on. Seat belts, fortunately, have been around for a long time and save lives. Sometimes, the automotive industry has been slow to change.

This video, a driving tour through Washington, D.C., shows the importance of obeying the traffic laws in what is the 77th largest urban area in the world, according to statistics in 2015. Because there are no large areas of rural country, there is a predominant focus on traffic devices like stoplights and the importance of wearing a seat belt, which has been shown repeatedly to save lives.

Not wearing a seat belt is implicated in other high-risk activities such as speeding or driving, and combined, they cause a lot of traffic fatalities.

Many states have primary enforcement seat belt laws. These mean that if a police officer sees you or someone in your vehicle not wearing a seat belt, they can pull you over without you committing another violation. This has led the NHTSA to use the phrase “Click It or Ticket” as the name for its seat belt initiative.

#3 – New York

Worst ranking: Careless driving – 19th
Best ranking: Drunk driving – 1st

New York has it all: mountain ranges such as the Adirondack Mountains, a calm community upstate, what some would say is the world’s best city in New York City, and fairly expensive no-fault auto insurance (the last part, we jest). What makes it stand out driving-wise? Good drivers — specifically, the third-best drivers on this list. Check out these rankings:

Death RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank

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New York ranks in the top five for all states in four out of the five categories. Its weak link is careless driving, where it’s ranked 19th. This may be due to the unique driving challenges in New York City, where pedestrians are everywhere and traffic is heavy. The numbers below are for overall pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in 2018:

  • Pedestrians killed: 242
  • Bicyclists killed: 46

Individually, the pedestrian death rate was 1.2, while the bicyclist death rate was 0.2. This means that for every 19,849 people in New York, 1.4 pedestrians or bicyclists were killed. There have been issues in past years with terrorists ramming cars into pedestrians in New York City and people on drugs crashing into pedestrians.

Fortunately, Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed initiatives aimed at reducing pedestrian and bicyclist deaths. Part of this includes the Pedestrian Safety Action Plan, which has allocated $110 million to infrastructure improvements, education efforts, and increased enforcement.

All that said, New York is head and shoulders above every other state when it comes to one category where it ranks 1st: drunk driving. In a state with 19 million people, there were just 302 deaths where someone had any alcohol in their system. The table below has the stats:

Total DeathsDrunk Driving Deaths% per CapitaDeaths w/ BAC .01-.07% per CapitaDrunk Driving Rank

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Part of this may be due to, in part, the extensive public transportation system in New York City, where there’s not even a hint of a reason to drink and then drive. Add to that the numerous Ubers and taxis out there, and there are many options within the city to avoid that drinking and driving problem. Still, hat’s off to New York.

#2 – Massachusetts

Worst ranking: Careless driving – 10th
Best ranking: Death rate – 1st

The commonwealth boasts many things, including world championship sports teams, Johnny Appleseed, and perhaps the city with the most recognizable American accent in Boston. It also has something that is a high honor: ranking 2nd on this countdown for being home to the best drivers in the nation. The table below has all its rankings:

Death RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank

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As for many other states in the top 10, Massachusetts’ worst category is careless driving. But in this case, it’s not all that bad, with a number 10 ranking. In 2018, 74 pedestrians and 11 bicyclists were killed. Individually, the pedestrian death rate was 1.1 and the bicyclist death rate 0.2, signifying that for every 6,860 people in its population, 1.3 pedestrians and bicyclists were killed.

In each of the other categories, Massachusetts drivers ranked in the top three, with a number one in overall death rate at 0.6. This means that for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled, less than one person died.

The Bay State has the lowest death rate in the country.

One reason people may drive safely in Massachusetts is the auto insurance consequences for getting in an accident, with the average cost for car insurance in the Bay State being higher than the nationwide average already. Another one of the reasons might be its initiatives, which include an Enhanced Teen Driver initiative and a rigorous road test that ranked as the second hardest road test for teens in the country.

The video shows that Massachusetts, having one of the hardest road tests in the country, mandates that someone with a learner’s permit must take driver’s ed before even attempting a road test. Students are graded on their posture, and the fee to take the road test is one of the highest in the country as well.

This, at the very least, seems to require that students have a solid foundation before even taking the road test, which might bode well down the road, as teen drivers, given their inexperience, often cause a good percentage of accidents.

#1 – Minnesota

Worst ranking: Failure to obey – 6th
Best ranking: Careless driving – 1st

The Land of 10,000 Lakes has another title to add to its list of names: State with the Best Drivers for 2020. It’s simply great, from its best category to its worst category. How great is it? Let’s take a look at our winner for this year, with a focus on its best and worst category:

Death RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank

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It’s in the top six in all five categories, including two fives, a two, and a one. Its worst category is failure to obey, but even that is 6th overall. These numbers are for fatal crashes for 2018:

  • Involving traffic safety devices: 116 fatal crashes
  • With seat belt used: 80 fatal crashes
  • Involving an invalidly licensed driver: 52 fatal crashes

Its worst ranking in the subcategories of failure to obey was surprisingly high — an 18th for deaths involving a safety device. For seat belt used, Minnesota ranked 6th. For involving an invalidly licensed driver, it ranked 7th.

The best ranking overall for Minnesota? The one that the other states in the top 10 had trouble with. That’s careless driving.

Pedestrians KilledBicyclists KilledPedestrian Death RateBicyclist Death RateCareless Driving Rank

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In 2018, just 38 pedestrians and six bicyclists were killed in a state with a population of 5.5 million. The combined death rate for both pedestrians and bicyclists was 0.8. This means that for every 5,577 people in the North Star State, 0.8 pedestrians were killed. A strong game from Minnesota.

One of the reasons it might have the best drivers in the nation is the high insurance coverage limits needed to drive in the state. It also has done numerous things to make the roads safer, including passing this hands-free law last year.

Minnesota’s hands-free law is similar to a lot of the hands-free laws in the United States (less than half of all states have one). It has specific rules for where mounts go, prohibition about using it while in traffic, even when stopped, and the one-touch policy, which means you can touch your phone only for one-touch commands.

Hands-free aims to prevent more than just texting and driving, for which most states already have a law. Facetiming, playing games on a mobile device, and even manipulating GPS while having the phone in your hand, all have deadly consequences. Perhaps it’s one of the many reasons this state has the best drivers.

What the Best 10 States Have in Common

Now we’ve gone through the top 10 states with the best drivers. They are representative of America in many ways. Some are small states, others are large. Some have high populations and others do not. Ditto for population densities and geography. What separates them from the rest?

“There are several reasons behind some states having better drivers than others, like conditions of roads and highways, traffic backups, weather conditions, quality of cars, etc.”

– Jennifer Wilnechenko, travel writer for Etia.com

That’s aside from our statistics. Now, what do they have in common? One of the first commonalities that comes to mind is perhaps the most important statistic — death rate. This rate is based on 100 million vehicle miles traveled. A state with a death rate of 1 had one traffic death per 100 million miles driven in 2018. Check out this table:

StateDeath RateDeath Rate Rank
New Hampshire0.83rd
New York0.84th
New Jersey0.84th
District of Columbia0.86th

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Our best 10 states occupy nine out of the top 10 spots in the death rate category. The average death rate for the top 10 states is 0.8, which is 0.4 lower than the overall average of 1.2. The top 10 states are safe to drive in, compared to the rest of the country.

Now, let’s take a look at failure to obey. All of the following columns below except for total rank have to deal with fatal crashes and situations as seen in the next in the prior sections. Those are involving a traffic safety device, fatal crashes with no seat belt used, and involving an invalid license.

All tables in the failure to obey category follow this pattern. The table below has failure to obey statistics from all of the top 10 states:

StateIgnoring Safety DevicesNo Seat BeltInvalid LicenseFailure to Obey Rank
District of Columbia8261st
New York2981761552nd
New Jersey1841351048th
New Hampshire136469th

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Things are a little more spread out for failure to obey. Seven of the best 10 states are ranked in the top 10 spots for the failure to obey category. Three of the states — Iowa, Utah, and Ohio — are in the 20s.

There was an even deeper disparity within the subcategories, where two states reached into the 30s. Iowa was ranked 34th in fatal crashes with a safety device involved, and New Hampshire was ranked 35th in fatal crashes with no seat belt used.

New Hampshire’s low ranking in fatal crashes with no seat belt used may not be surprising: The Granite State is the only state without a mandatory seat belt law.

When all the rankings are totaled together, we can see that the top 10 states did far worse in deaths involving traffic safety devices than the other two. In that subcategory, the top 10 states had a combined score of 148. This score sums up each individual state ranking for that subcategory. For restraint not used, the number was 128, and for deaths involving a driver with an invalid license, the score was 97.

The following table has all the stats about the top 10 states and careless driving:

StatePedestrians KilledBicyclists KilledPedestrian Death RateBicyclist Death RateCareless Driving Rank
New Hampshire1120.80.14th
New York242461.20.219th
District of Columbia1121.60.329th
New Jersey183172.00.239th

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Careless driving was a consistent problem for the states in the top 10. There are only four states — Minnesota, Massachusetts, Iowa, and New Hampshire — in the top 10. Four states are between 15th and 23rd, with two states in the back half of all states. The worst is New Jersey at 39th.

In total, 869 pedestrians and 128 bicyclists were killed in the top 10 states in 2018. The average pedestrian death rate was 1.2, while the average bicyclist death rate was 0.2. That led to a combined death rate of 1.4. This means for each increment of 1,000 population (total population divided by 1,000), there were 1.4 deaths on average per state.

Next is a table on drunk driving:

StateDrunk Driving Deaths% per CapitaDeaths w/ BAC .01-.07% per CapitaDrunk Driving Rank
New York2951.5%470.2%1st
District of Columbia162.3%00.0%2nd
New Jersey1251.4%400.4%6th
New Hampshire272.0%50.4%6th

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Like the death rate, drunk driving was a category nearly every state did well in. The top 10 states took all but three spots in the top 10, with the other three falling in the 10 to 15 range. The best was New York at number one. The worst was Iowa at 15.

Of the 4,810 traffic deaths for the top 10 states in 2018, 1,320 came from drunk driving, where the driver’s BAC was over .08.

That 1,320 was 27.4 percent of the overall traffic deaths. While this may seem like a lot, the average rank for the top 10 states in the overall rankings was 6.7, showing how challenging this issue is for all states.

Our last category is speeding:

StateTotal DeathsSpeed-Related DeathsSpeeding Related Deaths per CapitaSpeeding Rank
New Jersey6241201.3%1st
New York9993081.6%4th
District of Columbia31172.4%13th
New Hampshire102584.3%43rd

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Speeding was similar to drunk driving, with most states falling between 1st and 16th. There was one exception: New Hampshire at 43. Of its 102 fatal crashes in 2018, 58 involved speeding.

For the four subcategories we’re spotlighting, the top 10 states have deaths per capita rates between 1.27 and 1.92, meaning that for every one-thousandth of each state’s population, between 1.27 and 1.92 people died. The average ranking for all states was 11.2, which is a little higher than the previous category, drunk driving.

Overall, 1,262 people died in speeding-related accidents in 2018 for the top 10 states, making up 26 percent of the overall deaths.

Again, like drunk driving, due to the top 10 states’ high overall rankings, this shows how difficult an issue this is for all states. Taking a look at per-capita percentages for subcategories shows the challenges for the top 10 states with specific traffic death-related issues.

The smallest is pedestrian deaths per capita, with the largest being deaths with BAC +.08 deaths per capita. The spread for the top 10 states is fairly small at just 0.7 percent. This, like the total deaths for drunk driving and speeding compared to the overall deaths, shows different issues in their level of seriousness.

While many top 10 states had some trouble with careless driving (their overall rank average was 16.4, the worst by far for all categories) pedestrian deaths are still fairly low when compared to the other subcategories.

We’ve already seen that drunk driving and speeding are serious issues, with each accounting for over 25 percent of total deaths. Not using a seat belt represents 1.9 percent of fatal crashes per capita.

This means when looking at a one-thousandth of their populations, 1.9 percent of that number were fatal crashes involving not using a seat belt. That’s a difficult situation that could use improving.

Traffic Deaths in the Best 10 States

We’ve seen the commonalities that the top 10 states share. But there remains an important issue we haven’t discussed — how the number of traffic deaths for the top 10 states compares to the overall deaths for all states in the country.

How do their fatal crash and death totals compare to those nationwide? Let’s see in this table:

Failure to Obey Fatal Crashes3,40627,90312.2%
Careless Driving Deaths9976,76014.8%
Drunk Driving Deaths1,32010,87512.1%
Speeding Deaths1,262971713.0%

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Ten states are 20 percent of the United States and one might expect, even with them being in the top 10 states, that they’d account for around 20 percent of the overall death totals in the United States. But they did not.

In the end, the top 10 states account for between 12 percent and 15 percent of the total deaths in each category. As we’ll see, the bottom five states and the top 10 states are not that far apart in this regard.

Before we move onto the bottom five states with the worst drivers, we wanted to highlight a particularly difficult issue for many states and one that costs the United States over 10,000 lives per year according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That issue is drunk driving.

All of the top 10 states did well in the drunk driving category. Things look a little different when you look at which states overall make up the top 10 in that category.

The list is reordered slightly for our top 10 states, with Washington, Iowa, and Ohio falling out. Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Alaska take their places.

Most of the states in the top 10 are in the Northeast, with just Alaska, Minnesota, the District of Columbia, and Utah in other areas of the country. It is interesting to note that the Northeast and some of those states are some of the most urbanized in the country.

This means the residents likely have access to alternate transportation such as Uber or public transportation options. If this were to be the case, Alaska, Minnesota, and Utah would be outliers to some extent. Regardless, it’s a serious issue, and there have been many public service announcements aimed at teens and adults to bring awareness of the dangers into the public light.

This PSA is targeted at teens and is a re-enactment of an actual incident that occurred. It walks viewers through an entire scenario, with medics called to the scene and friends of the victim crying, all while a voiceover narrates the video from the victim’s perspective.

Many of the PSAs have this kind of graphic nature in an attempt to show viewers the actual ramifications of drinking and driving, as some people think they can just get away with it and nothing will happen to them.

5 States with the Worst Drivers

We’ve had the beauty pageant, the states with the top 10 drivers. Now, we have that other side, where the drivers are less than adequate. While the top 10 states came from all around the country, these states come from two particular regions. Let’s get to it.

#5 – Arizona

Worst ranking: Careless driving – 48th
Best ranking: Failure to obey – 32nd

Arizona has an expansive desert, the Grand Canyon, and low auto insurance minimum coverages. It is also has something not nearly as positive as those for things: bad drivers. Arizona comes in as the 5th worst state on this list, just five spots from last. How bad were its drivers? Pretty bad. Let’s check out its overall rankings in each category:

Death RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank

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Its worst category was careless driving, making it similar to many states in the top 10. It was much worse, though, coming in at 48, better than just three states.

In 2018, 216 pedestrians were killed, along with 32 bicyclists. The combined death rate was 2.6, with pedestrians having a death rate of 2.1 and bicyclists having a death rate of 0.5. This means that for every 7,016 people in the Grand Canyon State, 2.6 pedestrians and bicyclists died.

Its best category was failure to obey, and here it did fairly well, ranking 32nd overall and 26th in seat belt usage (in spite of the seat belt law for those 8 and older being secondary enforcement), and 26th in crashes involving an invalidly licensed driver. Its fatal crashes in 2018 for the three subcategories of failure to obey were in the hundreds:

  • Involving traffic safety devices: 332 fatal crashes
  • With no seat belt used: 152 fatal crashes
  • Involving an invalidly licensed driver: 166 fatal crashes

In its other categories, Arizona did not fare so hot. Arizona has made strides with distracted driving, with the governor signing a bill in mid to late 2019 that outlaws all electronic device use while driving. While drivers won’t be fined until 2021, they can still be pulled over. If any warrants are out against them, they can still be arrested.

In this video, a local reporter quizzes fellow citizens about how much they know about the new hands-free law. While some of them know quite a bit, some don’t know much, and one even doesn’t know about the law at all. That actually is a major problem with new laws, and as a result, Arizona is not enforcing the law until 2021.

It certainly isn’t ideal, as some hands-free laws go into effect very quickly. It’s a step in the right direction for a state that has some of the worst drivers in the country.

#4 – Alabama

Worst ranking: Drunk driving – 49th
Best ranking: Death rate – 37th

Alabama has a powerhouse college football program and Southern accents as thick as molasses. It also has a problem and, in this case, it’s a pretty big one. Driving. Alabama comes in at 4th worst on this list, ahead of just three other states. In its best category, it was pretty bad. In its worst? Well. Check out this table:

Death RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank

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Alabama’s worst category is drunk driving, where it ranks 49th. A full 28 percent of its traffic deaths in 2018 came from drunk driving, where drivers had a BAC of .08 or more. This in spite that Alabama has stringent penalties for DUIs. The statistics below were for the subcategories in drunk driving:

  • Drunk driving deaths: 268
  • Deaths with BAC .01 – .07: 49

Its drunk driving deaths percent per capita was at 5.5 percent, and its BAC .01-.07 deaths percent per capita was at 1 percent. Combined, this means that for every 4,875 people living in Alabama, 6.5 percent died in accidents where alcohol was involved.

Its best category was a pretty good one to have your best score in: death rate, at 37th. It has a death rate of 1.3 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. With the average being 1.2, Alabama is still much higher. Again, that’s a good category to have your best ranking in.

Alabama is also trying to reduce deaths through various highway traffic safety initiatives. These include those aimed at occupant protection, system improvement, impaired driver countermeasures, safety programs, and the yellow dot program.

In this video, local reporters show how the Alabama government and parents are trying to educate teenage drivers on the dangers of texting and driving, drinking and driving, and reckless driving. Awareness and education, for these government officials and parents, are critical to preventing devastating crashes.

But, of course, it’s not just teens that are causing the negative statistics in this study. And in spite of all this bad driving, the insurance rates in Alabama are still fairly low compared to much of the nation.

#3 – Louisiana

Worst ranking: Failure to obey – 48th
Best ranking: Speeding – 37th

Louisiana has delicious gumbo and an event like few in the country in Mardi Gras. What else does it have? Pretty bad driving. In addition to this list, it’s featured on other lists for distracted driving and has some of the highest insurance rates in the country.

For states with bad drivers, insurance prices are often an issue. If you want to learn more, check out this page for the average rates between males and females, comparison of the genders within the states, and possible discounts.

Now, how bad was Louisiana on this list? Let’s find out:

Death RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank

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Its worst category is failure to obey, where its fatal crash totals in 2018 add up to over 600. Check out the statistics down below:

  • Involving traffic safety devices: 210
  • With no seat belt used: 246
  • Involving an invalidly licensed driver: 50

Its ranking for fatal crashes involving traffic safety devices is 43rd. For no seat belt used, it’s 36th. For involving a driver with an invalid license, it ranked second-to-last. In its best category, it fares much better.

Total DeathsSpeed-Related DeathsSpeeding Deaths Per CapitaSpeeding Rank

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Louisiana ranked 37th in the speeding category, its best category by far. It had a 3.8 percent of speeding deaths per capita (for every 4,684 people, its speeding deaths totaled 3.8 percent), with 23 percent of its deaths overall coming from speeding. Another piece of good news? Louisiana makes child safety in vehicles a priority, with significant penalties for breaking car seat laws and strong primary enforcement.

It has had major problems with distracted driving, however, which has led one official to call distracted driving an epidemic in the state. This has led Louisiana to have some of the highest insurance rates in the country.

In this video, a local news station covers the number of crashes that happen on I-10, which is a stretch of highway that connects Lafayette with Baton Rouge. Out of all the possible causes of crashes, distracted driving is one that officials have homed in on, and multiple eyewitnesses have noticed.

Other causes included speeding, rubbernecking, reckless driving, and tailgating. Because I-10, at the time of this video, was under construction, this led to small lanes, which meant a higher possibility of accidents.

#2 – New Mexico

Worst ranking: (Tie) Drunk driving and speeding – 50th
Best ranking: Death rate – 35th

New Mexico is no stranger to these types of lists as it was ranked as the worst state last year and worst state for traffic fatalities in a 2018 list. Here, New Mexico comes in at 2nd to last, above just one other state with a surprisingly just less-than-average category but also many nearly dead last rankings as well:

Death RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank

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It was the second to last in two categories — drunk driving and speeding. Drunk driving accounted for 32 percent of New Mexico’s overall deaths.

In 2018, there were 120 deaths due to drunk driving and 25 deaths when someone had a BAC of .01-.07 in the state.

Speeding was equally as bad in terms of ranking. It accounted for 37 percent of New Mexico’s traffic deaths. New Mexico also had a 6.8 percent speeding deaths per capita. This means that its total speeding deaths made up for 6.8 percent of a one-thousandth of its population (2,088 people). Both of these categories likely contribute to New Mexico’s car insurance rates. Below is the table with New Mexico’s statistics for the speeding category:

Total DeathsSpeed-Related DeathsSpeeding Deaths Per CapitaSpeeding Rank

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Combined, speeding and drunk driving accounted for 69 percent of New Mexico’s traffic deaths in 2018. Its best category, though, was much better than those two and much better than any other category.

New Mexico had a 1.3 death rate per 100 million miles traveled in 2018, which was good for 35th overall. It was still higher than the national rate of 1.2 but overall, like with Alabama, it’s a good category in which to have your best score.

New Mexico also has an organization called Safer New Mexico Now, which promotes safer highways and roadways to various organizations. One of its major core areas it focuses on is innovative traffic safety programs.

In this video, a representative from Safer New Mexico Now talks about the organization’s efforts to teach people how to use car seats correctly. As the representative notes, at that time car crashes were the number one killer of children in America. Therefore, correctly using a car seat for your children could save lives.

The video, which was made years before, also shows how long Safer New Mexico Now has been active and advocating or educating people about things regarding vehicles and driving.

#1 – South Carolina

Worst ranking: (Tie) Drunk driving, speeding, death rate – 51st
Best ranking: Failure to obey – 45th

South Carolina ranks last on this list with the worst drivers in the country. It has just one category that ranks above 46th, and three of its categories are tied for worst in the country overall. Those are drunk driving, speeding, and death rate. Let’s check out the rankings:

Death RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank

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Drunk driving accounted for 32 percent of overall traffic deaths with 374 people dying because a driver had some alcohol in their system. 313 of those deaths occurred when a driver had a BAC of .08 or over. An additional 61 people died in accidents where a driver had a BAC between .01 and .07.

The combined deaths per capita was 7.4 percent (drunk driving deaths made up 7.4 percent of 5,024 people living in South Carolina, or one-thousandth of its population). Some people have been wondering if the punishments for drinking and driving are too lenient.

Then there was speeding. It accounted for 42 percent of South Carolina’s overall traffic deaths with a whopping 8.3 speeding deaths per capita (deaths per one-thousandth of the population). Here are the statistics:

Total DeathsSpeed-Related DeathsSpeeding Deaths Per CapitaSpeeding Rank

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The two combined for 74 percent of South Carolina’s overall deaths. This percentage wasn’t for a small number of deaths. South Carolina ranked dead last in death rate for all states (and the District of Columbia) around the country.

South Carolina’s death rate for 100 million miles traveled is 1.8, 0.6 higher than the average national rate.

This makes it the worst state for fatal traffic accidents in 2018. Its best category, unlike other worst states, was not particularly much better than its other categories. It came in 45th for failure to obey. The following statistics are its fatal crash totals for that subcategory for 2018:

  • Involving traffic safety devices: 222
  • With no seat belt used: 340
  • Involving an invalidly licensed driver: 169

Its ranking for fatal crashes involving traffic safety devices is 43rd. For no seat belt used, it’s 36th. For involving a driver with an invalid license, it ranked second to last. In its best category, it fares much better. Unsurprisingly in all this, South Carolina’s car insurance rates are higher than the average for the country.

What the Worst 5 States Have in Common

So, with these bottom five, what do they have in common? It turns out they have a little bit in common and a little bit not. They have more commonalities than the top 10, probably in part because there are just five states instead of 10. Let’s start with death rates for all bottom five states and move from there:

StateDeath RateDeath Rate Rank
New Mexico1.335th
South Carolina1.851st

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There’s a little bit of variety within the death rates of the bottom five.

When compared to all states in the country, Alabama and New Mexico are in the worst 10. Arizona and Louisiana are tied and in the middle of all states. And South Carolina is the worst in the country. The average death rate for the bottom five states in 2018 was 1.5 for 100 million vehicle miles traveled, which is 0.3 worse than the nationwide average.

The following columns for failure to obey deal with fatal crashes for the categories of ignoring traffic devices, no seat belt use, and a driver having an invalid license:

StateIgnoring Safety DevicesNo Seat BeltInvalid LicenseFailure to Obey Rank
New Mexico84997644th
South Carolina22230416945th

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There are quite a few shifts in failure to obey — sometimes within the same state. Alabama, for instance, has, far and away, the lowest percentage per capita for safety devices but the highest for seat belt usage. Meaning, in regard to fatal crashes, Alabamians have a problem with seat belts more than traffic lights.

There is a wide disparity in percentages per capita within all three subcategories — 1.5 percent in safety devices, 4.7 percent in seat belt usage, and 2.4 in drivers with an invalid license. This means that the states performed much differently in all three categories compared to one another. The same patterns follow for the other two subcategories.

Next is a table for careless driving, which covers, among other things, the number of fatal crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists:

StatePedestrians KilledBicyclists KilledPedestrian Death RateBicyclist Death RateCareless Driving Rank
South Carolina154183.10.447th
New Mexico7423.50.149th

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Within the category of careless driving, all five states were ranked pretty badly, from 43rd to 49th. Between the five states, 674 pedestrians and 81 bicyclists were killed in 2018.

They had an average pedestrian death rate of 2.9 and an average bicyclist death rate of 0.3. That puts their total death rate at 3.2, which is 1.8 higher than the total death rate for the top 10 states.

The next table contains statistics about the worst five states in the category of drunk driving:

StateDrunk Driving Deaths% per CapitaDeaths w/ BAC .01-.07% per CapitaDrunk Driving Rank
New Mexico1205.7%251.2%50th
South Carolina3136.2%611.2%51st

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Within drunk driving, all were pretty bad again but with a larger split, this time between 40 and 51. Total drunk driving deaths between the five states were 1,191 for 2018, 29 percent of the five states’ overall death total.

In terms of subcategories, the bottom five states had a major problem: Their average ranking was worse for deaths when a driver had a BAC .01-.07 than for a legally drunk driver.

In the former, the bottom five states had an average ranking of 44. In the latter, their average ranking was 47. What follows is a table covering the worst five states and the speeding category:

StateTotal DeathsSpeed-Related DeathsSpeeding Related Deaths per CapitaSpeeding Rank
New Mexico3791416.8%50th
South Carolina9884168.3%51th

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Within speeding, there was more variance, with Louisiana on the low end at 37 and South Carolina at the high end at 51. Deaths per capita ranged by 4.5 percent (8.3 percent for South Carolina to 3.8 percent for Alabama) and speeding-related deaths accounted for 32 percent of the overall bottom-five state total.

We looked at the same four subcategories for the bottom five states as we did with the top 10 states. There was a much larger spread with the bottom five states, with the highest category for the bottom five states being at 5.5 percent and the lowest being at 2.9 percent.

The highest is fatal crashes with restraint not used and speed-related deaths per capita. This highlights the issue of not wearing seat belts and, furthermore, speeding. Often, drivers will do them both at the same time, resulting in serious accidents and deaths.

The lowest was pedestrian deaths per capita, and it was much higher than the percentage for the top 10 states.

Traffic Deaths in the Worst 5 States

Just like we did with the top 10 states, we’re going to look at the fatal crash and death totals of the bottom five states compared to nationwide totals. Let’s jump in:

CATEGORYWorst 5NATIONWIDEWorst 5: % of Total
Failure to Obey Fatal Crashes3,12827,90311.2%
Careless Driving Deaths7556,76011.1%
Drunk Driving Deaths1,19110,87511.0%
Speeding Deaths1,2909,71713.3%

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Five states equal 10 percent of the overall United States. Because they are in the bottom five, you might expect these five to account for a larger percentage of the total traffic deaths in the United States than their 10 percent share. And they do. The five states account for between 11 and 13.5 percent of the overall totals.

While this is not a huge difference compared to the difference for the best 10 states compared to the whole, it still is a difference. What is remarkable is that the percentages for the worst five states and the best 10 states are fairly similar. This means that the deaths in the worst five states came close to equaling the deaths in all of the best 10 states.

Which geographical zone has the best drivers?

So, we’ve covered the states with the best drivers and the states with the worst drivers. We’ve broken down the different categories and subcategories and put together a clear picture of why the drivers in those states are some of the best or some of the worst. And we’ve highlighted issues like drunk driving, speeding, and not wearing a seat belt.

We know what you’re thinking, and it has to do with more than your state. After all, there are bragging rights at stake with an article like this. You’re wondering, “How does your geographic zone or region stake with others in the country?” Like in the previous sections, there are clear winners and losers. Let’s get started.

We’ve taken a look at the top 10 states and the bottom five states. Now we want to divide and organize the states one last time, putting them into their respective regions and ranking the whole. Which regions around the country have the best drivers? Let’s find out.

#4 – South

Worst state: South Carolina – 51st
Best state: District of Columbia – 4th

The South is known for many things — barbecue, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and grits. Also, college football. But one thing it may not be well-known for, but the statistics bear out, is bad driving.

Although the South has three states in the top 13 — the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland — its remaining states have an average ranking of 41. And those in the deep south such as Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi seem to have some of the worst problems:

StateDeath RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank
District of Columbia6th1st29th2nd13th4th
North Carolina27th27th38th32nd41st36th
West Virginia48th26th24th35th44th40th
South Carolina51st45th47th51st51st51st

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Its best ranking in terms of category is speeding at 27th. Within speeding, the best state in the South is Florida, ranked 2nd. Ranked dead last in the South and in the country overall is South Carolina at 51st. That’s about as wide of a range as you can get.

Its worst ranking in terms of category is careless driving. There, the best state is Virginia, ranked 19th. The state in the South with the worst ranking in careless driving is Delaware, ranked last at 51st in the region and in the country.

#3 – West

Worst State: New Mexico – 50th
Best State: Washington – 5th

The great rugged West has some unique driving challenges in the country. These include the huge and dangerous Rocky Mountains, deadly coastal driving from the south of California up to Washington, and desert or barren driving landscapes.

It ranks 3rd

among the four regions in the country, with two states — Utah and Washington — in the top 10, but three with ranks of 41 or higher. Some of this may be attributed to the geography of the West. But there may just be less-than-average drivers as well. Here is a chart with all the rankings:

StateDeath RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank
New Mexico35th44th49th50th50th50th

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Unlike with the other regions, we didn’t see much of the West in the rankings. There were just two states in the top 10 and two states in the bottom five.

Within drunk driving, its best category, its best and worst state were two familiar faces—Utah and New Mexico. There were two familiar faces as well for the West’s worst category, speeding. Those were Washington for its best state and New Mexico for its worst state.

#2 – Midwest

Worst states: South Dakota and Kansas – 30th
Best state: Minnesota – 1st

The heart of America with its pleasantness and genteel manners comes in 2nd on this list, with the number one state in the entire country and a handful of very good states in the overall rankings.

How good was the Midwest? Its average ranking for all states was 21, boasting the top state in the nation and three states in the top 10. The table below has all the rankings:

StateDeath RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank
North Dakota27th38th3rd37th36th29th
South Dakota37th25th8th46th29th30th

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Its best category was careless driving, where its average ranking was 13. In that category, its best state was Minnesota at number one. Its worst state was Michigan at 28.

Its worst category was failure to obey, where its average ranking was 27. Its best state, again, was Minnesota, ranked at six. Its worst state was Missouri, ranked at 43.

#1 – Northeast

Worst state: Maine – 26th
Best state: Massachusetts – 2nd

The Northeast takes the number one spot on this ranking of the best drivers per region in the country.

Why is it the best? It boasts four top-10 states and its worst state is Maine at 26. And the average for all states is head and shoulders above the rest — 12, which is clear of the nearest region by nine and shows how good the drivers in most of the states in the Northeast are. Let’s check out the rankings:

StateDeath RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeeding2020 Overall Rank
New York4th2nd19th1st4th3rd
New Jersey4th8th39th6th1st5th
New Hampshire3rd9th4th6th43rd8th
Rhode Island19th4th37th9th39th21st

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For all categories, it has a spread of 14 between the averages for all states. It has averages between 10 and 12 for three categories — failure to obey, death rate, and drunk driving.

Its best category is failure to obey, with its leading state is New York, ranked 2nd, and its worst state is Vermont, ranked 18th. Its worst category is speeding with an average rank of 24. Its best state in that category is New Jersey at 1st. Its worst state is, again, Vermont at 45th.

What do authorities have to say about the best drivers?

When it came to the best and worst drivers in the country, we wanted to hear from the experts about good and bad driving behaviors, how to prevent accidents, and why some regions had worse drivers than others. Here are their answers.

Worst Driving Behaviors and Demographics: Poll

“Quick hits and takeaways:

  • Not signaling before a turn is the most annoying driving habit
  • Males are better at parking than women
  • Males admit to speeding more than women
  • Elderly drivers are ranked the most annoying on the roads
  • People find young male drivers more annoying than young female drivers

Whether you’ve been on the roads one week or 10 years, everyone has their own opinions on what driving habits annoy them. Studies have shockingly revealed that 80 percent of drivers admit to road rage. But what driving habit infuriates people the most?

To find the answers, Click4Reg.co.uk conducted a survey yielding 1,023 responses (all licensed U.K. drivers), to find out what habit infuriates drivers the most:

Top 10 Annoying Driving HabitsOther Drivers Annoyed By Them
Not signaling a turn55%
Leaving high beams on52%
Driving 10mph below the speed limit41%
Last minute lane mergers/lane switchers32%
Bad parking26%
Not being courteous to other drivers19%
Sudden braking18%
Middle-lane hogging14%

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Top 3 Most Infuriating Driving Habits:

  • Not signaling before a turn is the worst driving habit, according to 55 percent of our respondents. Besides this habit being very dangerous, it appears to really annoy people too!
  • Leaving high beams on was rated the second most annoying driving habit – for obvious reasons. Click4reg.co.uk revealed that women find this habit more annoying than men (55 percent of women stated it annoyed them, compared to only 49 percent of men).
  • Driving 10 mph below the speed limit seems to infuriate many U.K. drivers, with 39 percent finding it the most annoying driving habit. Despite this behaviour falling under ‘inconsiderate driving’, it seems as no surprise that it was rated the third most annoying driving habit; with 39 percent of respondents admitting to speeding.”

Do you find any of these annoying? Guilty of any yourself?

“If you’re guilty of any of these driving habits, don’t stress. Despite respondents ranking these as the most annoying driving habits, a whopping 87 percent of them admit to doing at least one of them. Click4reg.co.uk found that drivers admitted to speeding, bad parking and not signaling a turn the most. With regard to gender, Click4reg.co.uk found that both males and females were equally guilty of committing annoying driving habits. Check out this stat:

39 percent of females stated that their worst driving habit was bad parking, in comparison to nearly half of men (43 percent) admitting their worst habit was speeding.

To delve deeper, Click4reg.co.uk asked participants which drivers they found most annoying on the roads:

Types of Drivers on the RoadOther Drivers Annoyed By Them
Males 17/1838%
Rail Vehicles26%
Females 17/1812%
Coach Buses5%
Emergency vehicles2%

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Shockingly, people rated elderly drivers the most irritating, despite young drivers being much more likely to cause a crash. This could be explained by ‘driving 10 mph below the speed limit’ being rated the third most annoying driving habit, with elderly drivers typically driving slower.

Unsurprisingly, young male drivers were rated the second most annoying on the roads. Although only 12 percent of respondents found young female drivers irritating (despite both young drivers being at high risk of offending and/or crashing).

Thirdly, rail vehicle drivers appear to annoy people on the roads, with 26 percent finding them irritating. Women were particularly bothered by rail vehicle drivers with 34 percent of respondents finding their driving annoying, compared to only 18 percent of men.”

Elie Fakhoury is the Managing Director of Click4Reg.
A company that regularly contributes to research in the motor vehicle industry.

An Accident Can Occur in Only Fractions of a Second

“Some of the best driving habits to avoid road accidents are quite simple and may seem obvious, but putting these measures into practice is another story.

Car accidents are one of the highest causes of death among healthy travelers although many of these deaths are preventable. After buckling up and staying sober, the next thing to remember is to keep your focus on what you’re supposed to be doing — driving.

You may be the master of multitasking at work but diverting your concentration on the road can have serious, and even fatal, consequences.

Free up your mental space and concentration from tech device use. That includes texting, responding to phone calls, changing radio stations, and using location-based apps that monitor traffic conditions, locate gas stations and rest stops, and perform other tasks that, ironically, make road trips easier.

Even hands-free voice-enabled apps can cause distractions. Remember, it only takes fractions of a second for a crash to occur.

The same sort of restraint should apply for other types of tasks such as having a cup of coffee or admiring the landscapes on the route. It’s also a good idea to have anything you need, such as parking passes and toll cards, within easy reach.

Other road safety tips: Check your vehicle before long trips and be prepared for an emergency. That means keeping the right phone numbers (towing companies, emergency roadside assistance) with you and carrying supplies such as spare tires, jumper cables, and for remote drives, sufficient fuel, clean water, blankets, and food.

You can read more about road safety, specifically for remote road trips, in our article ‘Road Safety Tips: 12 Ways to Prepare.’ You can also check out World Nomads’ website for international road safety tips, including country-specific advice on traffic rules, driving etiquette, and road conditions.”

Lisa Cheng is an Editorial Producer for World Nomads.
World Nomads is a travel insurer that provides advice and safety tips for travelers.

How Polarized Sunglasses Fight Glare

“Regardless of the season, reflected sunlight and eye fatigue pose a regular threat to driving safety. In late autumn, glare is at its most hazardous as sunset becomes synchronous with evening rush hour traffic. In a study by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), ‘sun glare causes a few hundred accidents in the U.S. every year.’

We all know that sunglasses are a good way of improving your vision on bright sunny days. But, when the road is wet or the sun is particularly low, this is when glare becomes a major problem.

When the sun is low in the sky, sunlight is being condensed from the flat surface of the road. Scientifically speaking, it becomes horizontally orientated into what is called glare.

The best way to combat horizontal light is by wearing polarized sunglasses. They contain a chemical film within their lenses which vastly diminishes glare to improve your vision whilst driving on wet shiny roads or when the sun is low.

Due to the reduction of glare, polarized lenses are useful for reducing eye fatigue over long periods of visual focus behind the wheel. With less distracting and dangerous reflections from the road, they can alleviate unnecessary strain on your eyes over long journeys.

But take heed. Certain sunglasses are actually illegal for use whilst driving. This is due to the amount of visible light that is transmitted through the lens, thus affecting how dark they are to look through.

According to U.S. standard ANSI Z80.3-2001, sunglasses for driving must transmit a minimum of 8 percent of visible light to be deemed legal for road use. Sunglasses with less than 8 percent visible light transmission (VLT) will inhibit the ability to detect traffic signals and other traffic-related hazards.

Conclusively, obtaining and wearing sunglasses for safe driving is arguably a good method of reducing the likelihood of a collision or road incident. Polarized lenses are a good idea for blocking glare, but only if they conform to U.S. sunglasses standards.”

Jamie Bartlett is the co-founder of Banton Frameworks.
Jamie designs and creates hand-made eyewear and writes optical-related content.

Distracted Driving Can Kill

“The safest thing you can do to avoid accidents is to anticipate and deal with distractions while driving. A distraction is anything that takes your attention away from the primary task of safely operating a motor vehicle.

Distractions are unavoidable while driving; there will always be visual distractions when you are behind the wheel — outside of your vehicle, something on the roadside or up ahead momentarily grabs your attention; inside your vehicle, you might look away briefly to adjust the defrost or the GPS. Similarly, manual distractions such as reaching for something on the seat next to you or eating while you are driving can take your attention from the road.

The most significant, and dangerous, type of distraction is cognitive — thinking or focusing on anything besides driving safely. This is the category that encompasses all of the dangers posed by electronic devices, especially handheld devices, in your vehicle while driving. Texting, snapchatting, taking photographs — even talking on the phone — are all distractions which lead to serious injury or death on the roadways.

The best habits are those which recognize that, in the moment, the urge to engage an electronic device can be irresistible. If you notice the flash of a notification on your home screen or hear the familiar ding of an incoming message, it can be all but impossible to stay attentive to the roadway. Fortunately, there are strategies to deal with this.

Some are built right into your phone — on many phones, you can set the device to recognize when you are in the car, and it will automatically stop notifications of new messages. You can also manually turn off both visual and audible notifications easily in settings.

In addition to purely technological tools, there are some practical things you can do to avoid the distraction. Choose your playlists ahead of time so you don’t have to change the music. Alert your friends and family that you will contact them when you are stopped or have arrived safely. And of course, you can always keep your phone out of sight in a bag or behind you while driving.

There simply aren’t laws strong enough to overcome our natural tendency to become distracted while driving. That’s why the best habits recognize this basic fact of human nature and work with it, in an effort to give us all the best chance of avoiding tragic or fatal roadway disasters.”

Drew Palcsik, Esq. is the founding attorney of Champlain Valley Law.
His practice specializes in car, motorcycle, and bicycle accidents and other personal injuries.

How Utah Fought Back Against Drunk Driving

“For the past several years, Utah has been the state with the lowest amount of death caused by drunk driving in the nation. This primarily has stemmed from them lowering of their legal blood alcohol content (BAC) from .08 to .05 in 2019, which is the lowest BAC in the nation.

Although not driving under the influence seems like a no-brainer, Utah’s example demonstrates that being overly cautious can pay off as well. Interestingly enough, since the law was put into effect, the number of DUI crashes has decreased in Utah, but the number of DUI-related requests has not risen.

In fact, in Utah, arrest DUI-related deaths have gone down since 2010. This could signify that the stricter law is making people think twice before driving, even if they have not been drinking much.

Regardless, it is important for drivers to get into the habit of getting a ride after drinking just to be completely sure. This will likely reduce the amount of DUI-related deaths, arrests, and crashes. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

In each state or at least each area of the country there is a different ‘driving culture.’ For example, in California, drivers are used to traffic and congested roads. Overall, they are more aggressive and more used to having to weave in and out of traffic.

In the Midwest, there is a lot more open space and the people are generally in less of a hurry. In many cases, they even have to post a minimum speed in some of these areas to ensure that people aren’t driving too slow. On the East coast, the residents are more used to windy and narrow roads.

The bottom line is that drivers adapt to the driving conditions of the area of the country that they are in and that shapes their driving habits.”

Riley Clark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Car Warranty division of Best Company.
She has worked with leading experts to deliver factual, informative information to their readers.

The Best Asset We Have to Avoid Accidents and the Role Technology Plays

“The best driving habit a driver can use to minimize accidents is to not allow anything to distract you when you are driving. Cell phones, computers, children, conversation, food, drink — anything can distract from the important job of driving with deadly consequences. With driver-assist technology and semi-autonomous technology, drivers are more tempted than ever to intentionally distract themselves from counting on technology to allow their mind to wander when driving.

Do not allow technology to potentially endanger you or others on or near the roads. Many roads remain substandard to the point that autonomous technology is not as effective as it must be to completely rely on the technology. The human brain is now and will remain the most important technology to reduce accidents for the foreseeable future.

Concentrating on the road, leaving plenty of space between a vehicle and others, anticipating potential problems in advance, such as disabled vehicles and/or people on the road, wildlife or stock animals or even cargo or other items on the road will all help minimize accidents.

Being cautious and expecting potential trouble gives the driver the one thing he or she must have in an unexpected situation: time. Human Factor experts tell us that it takes about two seconds before a person can perceive an issue and start to react. Once the person starts to react additional time will have passed before the actions taken can avoid the hazard.

Allowing yourself to be distracted increases the time before the problem is even perceived. Anticipating potential hazards and paying close attention to the road and potential hazards allows the reaction time to be shortened after the problem is perceived. The bottom line is time. The more a driver has, the more likely an accident can be avoided.

I think it is more likely [than driving culture or behavior] that some states have [fewer accidents because of] less construction and more drivers who are more familiar with their roads and known hazards than in other areas. High growth areas typically have a lot of construction and a lot of drivers with limited familiarity with the area. That tends to result in more accidents and more hard braking events. State laws restricting cell phone use and promoting other safe driving habits do have a positive effect as well.

In Texas, there is now a program in place to try and eliminate deaths due to accidents. It is a fascinating use of science and statistics to determine problem spots throughout the various regions of the state; identify what is allowing the concentration of deaths in these areas; and then designing in fixes to reduce or eliminate deaths from accidents on the highways and roads. I have a feeling that if politicians allow funds to fix the problem areas over pet highway projects, road safety will be improved.”

John L. McCraw is a Personal Injury Lawyer and owner of The McCraw Law Group.
His practice defends commercial carrier injuries, other personal injury, and areas of wrongful conduct.

Complete Rankings of Drivers Across America

We know: If you’re on this page, you’re probably interested in how your state ranks compared to others. We’ve got you covered. What follows is five tables for all the categories we’ve covered so far:

  1. Death rate
  2. Failure to obey
  3. Careless driving
  4. Drunk driving
  5. Speeding

We’ve included all of their subcategories as well, so that you can see your state’s ranking when it comes to not using seat belts or death rates for pedestrians and bicyclists, among others. We’ll breakdown each section slightly to give you an idea of the whole of America. Let’s start with the death rates for all states:

StateDeath RateDeath Rate Rank
New Hampshire0.83rd
New Jersey0.84th
New York0.84th
District of Columbia0.86th
Rhode Island1.019th
North Carolina1.227th
North Dakota1.227th
New Mexico1.335th
South Dakota1.337th
West Virginia1.648th
South Carolina1.851st

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The average death rate for 100 million vehicle miles traveled for all states was 1.1. This means that 1.1 people died each year in traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. The top two states are Massachusetts and Minnesota, both at 0.6 when rounded, though Massachusetts has a slight edge at 0.56 compared to Minnesota at 0.6. The spread is between those two states at 0.6 and South Carolina at 1.8.

There are just seven states at 1.5 or over. At 1.5 are Arizona, Louisiana, and Montana. At 1.6 are Kentucky and West Virginia. Mississippi is at 1.7 and South Carolina at 1.8.

Now, let’s move onto failure to obey. All columns except for final ranking deal with fatal crashes:

District of Columbia81.2%4th20.3%1st60.9%5th1st
New York2981.5%6th1760.9%2nd1550.8%4th2nd
Rhode Island80.8%2nd191.8%10th141.3%10th4th
New Jersey1842.0%17th1351.5%8th1041.2%8th8th
New Hampshire131.0%3rd644.8%35th60.4%1st9th
South Dakota141.6%7th637.2%46th212.4%27th25th
West Virginia311.7%9th1246.8%45th452.5%28th26th
North Carolina2592.5%21st4023.9%29th3063.0%36th27th
North Dakota182.4%19th486.4%42nd263.4%43rd38th
New Mexico844.0%40th994.7%34th763.6%45th44th
South Carolina2224.4%42th3046.1%39th1693.4%40th45th

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As you can see with this table, the per capita deaths vary a great deal between all states, with some of the highest coming around or higher than 10 percent. Some of the lowest in those same categories come in at under 1 percent.

When it comes to average traffic deaths, the states also vary significantly according to each subcategory in failure to obey.

Restraint not used is the highest, with over 200 average traffic deaths per state. Involving a driver with an invalid license is the lowest, with around 144 traffic deaths per state. Deaths involving safety devices are around 200 as well but slightly lower than restraint not used.

Now, let’s move on to careless driving:

North Dakota755520.70.30.93rd
New Hampshire1,3431120.80.11.04th
South Dakota8701001.10.01.18th
New York19,849242461.20.21.519th
West Virginia1,8162631.40.21.624th
District of Columbia6941121.60.31.929th
Rhode Island1,0602122.00.22.237th
North Carolina10,273198291.90.32.238th
New Jersey9,006183172.00.22.239th
South Carolina5,024154183.10.43.447th
New Mexico2,0887423.50.13.649th

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Careless driving was a serious issue, not just for the top 10 states, but for the bottom five also. And it’s a serious issue in general all across America. In 2018, around 6,000 pedestrians were killed, along with 800 bicyclists.

The average death rate for pedestrians for all states was 1.7. For bicyclists, the average death rate was 0.2. This means that for every one-thousandth of the population for all states, 1.9 pedestrians and bicyclists died. The state with the highest combined pedestrian and bicyclist death rate was Florida at 3.7. Minnesota, our number one state overall, had the lowest total death rate for careless driving, at 0.8.

Now, let’s take a look at drunk driving. These statistics cover both subcategories of drunk driving and BAC of between .01 – .07, as well as the number of deaths in both subcategories:

New York2951.5%2nd470.2%5th1st
District of Columbia162.3%7th00.0%1st2nd
New Hampshire272.0%6th50.4%13th6th
New Jersey1251.4%1st400.4%18th6th
Rhode Island343.2%22nd10.1%2nd9th
North Carolina4134.0%37th640.6%32nd32nd
West Virginia724.0%34th130.7%37th35th
North Dakota466.1%49th40.5%24th37th
South Dakota354.0%37th121.4%51st46th
New Mexico1205.7%48th251.2%49th50th
South Carolina3136.2%50th611.2%50th51st

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There were around 11,000 traffic deaths resulting from a drunk driver in 2018, which accounted for 29 percent of all traffic deaths in the United States. There were an additional 1,900 deaths when someone had some alcohol in their system — a BAC between .01 and .07 — which, together with drunk driving deaths, accounted for 34 percent of all traffic deaths.

Needless to say, it’s a serious issue. As we’ll see, that percentage of deaths is even more than in speeding and, together, they account for over half of all traffic deaths in 2018. This table contains the speeding statistics for all states, including total number of deaths:

New Jersey6241201.3%1st
New York9993081.6%4th
District of Columbia31172.4%13th
South Dakota129313.6%29th
North Dakota115283.7%36th
Rhode Island83413.9%39th
North Carolina1,4124234.1%4st
New Hampshire102584.3%43rd
West Virginia303844.6%44th
New Mexico3791416.8%50th
South Carolina9884168.3%51st

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In 2018, traffic deaths related to speeding accounted for nearly 10,000 deaths or 26.1 percent of the overall traffic death total for all states. This puts it, when paired with alcohol-related traffic deaths, at around 50 percent of the overall total.

Both speeding and driving drunk are serious issues in the United States and have been the subject of PSAs, outreach by police forces, and advocacy by nonprofit organizations.

Often, they are paired together quite literally, when a driver drinks and then speeds. Often, those are combined with not using seat belts. This can lead to catastrophic wrecks and loss of life. Let’s head to the final rankings table:

StateDeath RateFailure to ObeyCareless DrivingDrunk DrivingSpeedingTotal Score2020 Overall Rank
New York4th2nd19th1st4th303rd
District of Columbia6th1st29th2nd13th514th
New Jersey4th8th39th6th1st585th
New Hampshire3rd9th4th6th43rd658th
Rhode Island19th4th37th9th39th10821st
North Dakota27th38th3rd37th36th14129th
South Dakota37th25th8th46th29th14530th
North Carolina27th27th38th32nd41st16536th
West Virginia48th26th24th35th44th17740th
New Mexico35th44th49th50th50th22850th
South Carolina51st45th47th51st51st24551st

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As we can see in the table, some have very small spreads between the categories. Minnesota, for instance, has all their rankings in the top six. But Florida drivers score 2nd for speeding but have a 50th in careless driving. The smallest score was 19 by Minnesota. The largest was 245 by South Carolina.

The Final Word on the Best Drivers Study

In this study and article, we covered almost everything. We took at the top 10 states — those with the best drivers — and the bottom five states, those with the worst. We broke down all the states into regions and saw that the Northeast took the top ranking, while the South took the lowest.

In the end, we learned which states were great, which were terrible. And we had the complete rankings for all those in between.

Drunk driving and speeding remain the two biggest problems facing drivers, as it has been for a number of years. These two issues take the most lives of all drivers in America every year and though there have been some improvements on these fronts, they are still serious issues.

Often, defensive driving is the difference between an accident and being safe on the road. These can include, as the video covers, being aware of where danger can come from, not using the clutch and the brake together during winter, not using high beams when driving through fog, and looking four to five cars ahead, to be able to see danger on the road before reaching it, giving you time to prepare a response, rather than react.

In the end, we hope this study and article was informative to you and gives you an idea of the state of driving in America. Clear eyes, full hearts. Happy driving.


We started this study with a simple purpose: to determine which states have the best drivers. We looked across the country, from the Appalachian Mountains near the Atlantic Ocean to the Redwood Forest near the Pacific. And, of course, Hawaii and Alaska.

What we found is that every region had at least one state with great drivers. Some regions had a high number of poor drivers, while some had consistently great to good drivers.

For this study, we looked at 1,950 data points from statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The research covered the year 2018 and was for five specific categories: death rate, failure to obey, careless driving, drunk driving, and speeding. All but death rate had subcategories. Check out the details:

  • Failure to obey: fatal crashes with safety devices involved, fatal crashes with restraint not used, fatal crashes where a driver was using an invalid license
  • Careless driving: pedestrians killed, bicyclists killed, pedestrians killed rate, bicyclists killed rate
  • Drunk driving: deaths with BAC +.08, deaths with BAC between .01 – .07
  • Speeding: speed-related deaths

Also calculated were total traffic deaths for all states, death rates, and death rates per capita (the population of the state). That data was used to give states individual rankings in each category. The rankings in each category were then combined into a total score, which was then used for the final rankings.

In the end, this study was meant to inform, educate, and put a spotlight on which states and regions had the best drivers, and which states and regions had the worst.

Some states have better drivers than others and all states are working to improve their drivers’ behaviors, for the betterment of themselves and the safety of all on the road.

Previous Results of this Study

  • Best Drivers of 2019
  • Best Drivers of 2018
  • Best Drivers of 2015


  1. https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/documents/nh_fy20_hsp_0.pdf
  2. http://www.targetzero.com/
  3. https://mpdc.dc.gov/page/click-it-or-ticket
  4. https://ggwash.org/view/37911/the-washington-region-is-the-worlds-77th-largest-urban-area
  5. https://fox13now.com/2018/12/24/utah-will-ring-in-the-new-year-with-the-nations-toughest-dui-law/
  6. https://www.mass.gov/news/massdot-registry-of-motor-vehicles-announces-enhanced-teen-driver-initiative-the-parents
  7. https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving
  8. https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2019/04/26/texting-and-driving-ban/
  9. https://adeca.alabama.gov/Divisions/lets/TrafficSafety/Pages/TrafficSafety.aspx
  10. https://www.safernm.org/

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