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The most dangerous (and safest) states for drivers

If you’ve ever taken a cross-country roadtrip, you probably noticed — in addition to changes in scenery — differences in road conditions, traffic laws, driving behaviors, and vehicle choice when moving from state to state. Perhaps less obvious, though, is that these differences make certain states far more dangerous (or more safe) than others when it comes to driving.

To evaluate road safety across the U.S., auto insurance comparison site AutoInsurance.org analyzed the most recent NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data. Using this data, its researchers computed certain safety indicators for every state. Below is a heatmap showing road fatalities per 100,000 by state.

The data highlights one obvious trend — the more rural the state, the more dangerous the roads (generally). While city driving can be intimidating — with their busy intersections, high densities of pedestrians, and difficult parking among other challenges — urban roads are actually far safer.

In 2016, for example, the total number of deaths that occurred as a result of accidents on rural roads actually exceeded that which occurred on urban roads (18,590 vs. 17,656) despite rural roads being far less traveled. When adjusting these numbers for traffic volume differences, the disparity is striking. The fatality rate per vehicle mile driven is almost three time higher on rural roads than urban ones, according to AutoInsurance.org research. Not surprisingly, as the percent of miles driven on rural roads increases (for each state), so does the fatality rate.

So, next time you’re behind the wheel, keep these statistics in mind. While driving in rural areas might seem safer, the data shows otherwise. The below list, ordered from safest to most dangerous, shows how all 50 states and the District of Columbia stack up in terms of road safety.

51. District of Columbia

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 4.1
  • Total fatal crashes: 26
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 39%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 4%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 0%

50. Rhode Island

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 4.8
  • Total fatal crashes: 48
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 38%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 6%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 11%

49. New York

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 5.2
  • Total fatal crashes: 965
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 17%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 13%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 16%

48. Massachusetts

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 5.8
  • Total fatal crashes: 359
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 29%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 11%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 4%

JERSEY CITY, NJ – MARCH 14: Parked cars stand alongside the road covered in snow during a blizzard on March 14, 2017 in in Jersey City, United States. New Jersey officials declared a state of emergency ahead of Tuesday’s weather. (Photo by William Volcov/Brazil Photo Press/LatinContent/Getty Images)

47. New Jersey

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 6.7
  • Total fatal crashes: 569
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 22%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 33%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 5%

46. Minnesota

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 7.2
  • Total fatal crashes: 357
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 28%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 8%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 38%

45. Washington

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 7.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 504
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 32%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 25%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 24%

44. Connecticut

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 8.2
  • Total fatal crashes: 281
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 30%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 5%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 6%

43. Illinois

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 8.4
  • Total fatal crashes: 1,003
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 26%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 5%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 21%

42. Hawaii

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 8.5
  • Total fatal crashes: 109
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 25%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 17%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 7%

41. Maryland

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 8.5
  • Total fatal crashes: 472
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 24%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 6%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 12%

40. Virginia

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 9.2
  • Total fatal crashes: 722
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 29%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 20%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 32%

I-81 Bridge and Reopening Update

39. Pennsylvania

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 9.3
  • Total fatal crashes: 1,088
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 24%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 6%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 30%

38. California

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 9.4
  • Total fatal crashes: 3,357
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 23%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 5%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 14%

37. Utah

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 9.5
  • Total fatal crashes: 259
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 20%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 7%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 29%

36. Ohio

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 9.8
  • Total fatal crashes: 1,053
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 34%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 6%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 25%

35. Vermont

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 9.9
  • Total fatal crashes: 57
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 47%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 5%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 66%

34. New Hampshire

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 10.2
  • Total fatal crashes: 130
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 30%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 4%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 34%

Wisconsin Country Road. (Photo by Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

33. Wisconsin

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 10.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 544
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 32%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 18%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 42%

32. Michigan

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 10.7
  • Total fatal crashes: 980
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 25%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 6%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 22%

31. Colorado

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 11.3
  • Total fatal crashes: 558
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 34%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 12%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 28%

30. Alaska

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 11.4
  • Total fatal crashes: 78
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 45%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 1%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 41%

29. Nebraska

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 11.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 194
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 39%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 7%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 57%

28. Nevada

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 11.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 303
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 30%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 3%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 29%

27. Maine

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 12.1
  • Total fatal crashes: 151
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 31%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 2%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 64%

JOHNSTON, IL – AUGUST 21: Traffic is backed up in the northbound lanes of Interstate 57 following the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 near Johnston, Illinois. With approximately 2 minutes 40 seconds of totality the area in Southern Illinois experienced the longest duration of totality during the eclipse. Millions of people watched the eclipse as it cut a path of totality 70 miles wide across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina on August 21. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

26. Oregon

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 12.4
  • Total fatal crashes: 446
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 27%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 2%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 39%

25. Indiana

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 12.5
  • Total fatal crashes: 768
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 18%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 5%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 38%

24. Delaware

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 12.7
  • Total fatal crashes: 116
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 31%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 14%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 26%

23. Iowa

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 13.0
  • Total fatal crashes: 356
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 26%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 9%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 61%

22. South Dakota

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 13.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 103
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 42%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 9%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 77%

21. Texas

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 14.0
  • Total fatal crashes: 3,407
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 25%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 11%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 24%

20. Arizona

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 14.3
  • Total fatal crashes: 865
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 23%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 6%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 32%

ASHEVILLE, NC – OCTOBER 20: Trees displaying fall colors of red and gold are at peak season along the Blue Ridge Parkway on October 20, 2016 near Asheville, North Carolina. Named one of the “Top 10 Great Places to Retire” by AARP, Asheville is experiencing a major cultural revolution, with the addition of new residents, restaurants, live music, and a vibrant arts community. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

19. North Carolina

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 14.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 1,348
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 28%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 12%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 28%

18. West Virginia

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 14.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 250
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 28%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 2%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 44%

17. Kansas

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 14.8
  • Total fatal crashes: 381
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 21%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 25%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 52%

16. Georgia

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 15.4
  • Total fatal crashes: 1,422
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 22%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 5%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 25%

15. North Dakota

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 15.4
  • Total fatal crashes: 102
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 48%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 11%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 73%

14. Idaho

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 15.5
  • Total fatal crashes: 232
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 28%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 21%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 57%

13. Missouri

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 15.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 868
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 28%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 9%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 37%

Florida, Titusville, Interstate I-95 Highway and Overpass. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images)

12. Florida

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 15.9
  • Total fatal crashes: 2,933
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 21%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 8%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 19%

11. Tennessee

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 15.9
  • Total fatal crashes: 966
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 23%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 13%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 30%

10. Louisiana

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 16.3
  • Total fatal crashes: 704
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 30%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 19%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 33%

9. Oklahoma

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 17.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 624
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 28%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 8%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 45%

8. Arkansas

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 18.4
  • Total fatal crashes: 488
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 23%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 5%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 45%

7. Montana

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 18.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 171
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 48%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 9%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 75%

View of middle-class suburban neighborhood in Kentucky. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

6. Kentucky

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 18.9
  • Total fatal crashes: 763
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 25%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 25%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 52%

5. Wyoming

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 19.2
  • Total fatal crashes: 100
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 29%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 15%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 76%

4. New Mexico

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 19.3
  • Total fatal crashes: 358
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 29%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 40%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 54%

3. South Carolina

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 21.0
  • Total fatal crashes: 936
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 36%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 5%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 43%

2. Alabama

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 21.4
  • Total fatal crashes: 937
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 15%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 5%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 38%

1. Mississippi

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 23.1
  • Total fatal crashes: 628
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 16%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 0%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 50%

Methodology

AutoInsurance.org analyzed vehicle accident data from the NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The NHTSA FARS data only includes accidents that resulted in a fatality. State population data was obtained from the American Community Survey 2012-2016 5-Year Estimates. Annual vehicle miles driven by state and road type were obtained from the Federal Highway Administration Office of Highway Policy Information.
All data used is from 2016, the most recent available.

  • Using this data, summary statistics for each state were determined.
  • States were then ordered based on road fatalities per 100,000 people.
  • The percent of crashes involving alcohol is the percent of fatal crashes in which one or more of the drivers involved had a positive BAC, or if the police reported alcohol involvement for the accident.
  • The percent of crashes involving a distracted driver is the percent of fatal crashes in which one or more of the drivers involved was reported to have been distracted prior to realization of the impending accident, or prior to impact if realization of the impending accident did not occur.

The NHTSA defines distracted driving as diversion of attention from the driving task to some other activity. Driving while daydreaming or lost in thought is considered distracted driving. Physical conditions/impairments (fatigue, alcohol, medical condition, etc.) or psychological states (anger, emotional, depressed, etc.) are not.