Deadliest Types of Roads in the US (2022)
There's a reason why parents talk about looking both ways before crossing the street, and driving instructors hammer home the importance of stopping at a stop sign: roads can be deadly.
While certain types of roads may seem more or less dangerous than others, this isn’t true everywhere. MoneyGeek analyzed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data and found that, in some states, you’re far safer taking the highway than a local street.
Our analysis broke down the deadliest types of roads in the U.S. and the deadliest road type in each state. Here's what we found:
- State highways are the deadliest type of road in the U.S., accounting for 1 in 3 crash fatalities.
- Pennsylvania has the country’s deadliest state highways, with 57% of crash fatalities occurring on this type of road.
- In nine states, driving on a local street is deadlier than taking the highway. In Arizona, the state with the deadliest local streets, half of all crash fatalities in the state happen on local roads.
- North Carolina experiences the highest fatality rate in the country on its section of the U.S. highway system, with 38% of all state crash deaths occurring on these roads.
- Minnesota is home to the deadliest county roads in the U.S.; there, 40% of all crash fatalities occur on this road type. Michigan is the next-deadliest (37% of all crash fatalities) state.
The Most Dangerous Types of Road in the U.S. in 2022
Using FARS data, MoneyGeek examined motor vehicle fatalities from 2018 to 2020 — analyzing deaths on county roads, interstates, local streets, state highways and U.S. highways — to find the deadliest types of road in the U.S. We found that state highways are the deadliest type of road overall, accounting for 1 in 3 crash fatalities, followed by local streets and U.S. highways.
In addition to calculating the most dangerous types of road overall, MoneyGeek also found the types of roads where the largest percentages of traffic fatalities occurred in every state.
We found that, while state highways were the most dangerous type of road in the U.S., they weren't the deadliest everywhere. Local streets were the most dangerous road type in nine states, U.S. highways in six and county roads in four. Interstates were also included in our analysis but were not the deadliest road type in any state.
The States With the Deadliest State Highways
State highways are the most dangerous roads in the United States, with 33% of all auto-related deaths occurring on these roads. Our study found that in 31 states, more crash fatalities take place on state highways than on any other type of road.
From 2018 to 2020, Pennsylvania’s 1,919 deaths make it the nation’s leader in this category — 57% of the state’s traffic fatalities were on a state highway, compared to the national average of 33%.
South Carolina followed close behind, with 57% of crash fatalities occurring on state highways.
States With the Highest % of Crash Fatalities on State Highways (2018–2020)
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- State% of Total FatalitiesCrash Fatalities on State Highways
- 2.South Carolina57%1,768
- 7.New Hampshire52%174
The States With the Deadliest Local Streets
Local streets are the second-deadliest type of road in the U.S., with 20% of accident fatalities taking place on them; in nine states, they’re the most dangerous type of road.
Arizona is the state with the most car-related deaths on local streets. Half of its traffic fatalities (50%) happened on these roads. Nevada placed second with 41% of crash fatalities taking place on local streets, followed by New York (40%).
States With the Highest % of Crash Fatalities on Local Streets (2018–2020)
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- State% of Total FatalitiesCrash Fatalities on Local Streets
- 3.New York40%1,174
The States With the Deadliest U.S. Highways
The differences between state highways and U.S. highways are subtle. However, MoneyGeek’s study found that U.S. highways are significantly less dangerous than state highways; in fact, while state highways were the most deadly road type in 30 states, U.S. highways were the most dangerous in just six.
This road type was most dangerous in North Carolina, where 38% of total crash fatalities occurred on state highways. Next was Wyoming (35%), followed by Nebraska (33%).
States With the Highest % of Crash Fatalities on U.S. Highways (2018–2020)
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- State% of Total FatalitiesCrash Fatalities on U.S. Highways
- 1.North Carolina38%1,005
- 4.North Dakota30%90
The States With the Deadliest County Roads
While county roads were the least deadly type of road in the U.S., overall, they were still the deadliest roads in four states. In Minnesota, deaths on county roads from 2018 to 2020 accounted for 40% of accident fatalities, the highest percentage of any state. County roads were also the most dangerous in Michigan, New Jersey and Iowa, with 37%, 30% and 28% of crash-related deaths occurring there, respectively.
States With the Highest % of Crash Fatalities on County Roads (2018–2020)
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- State% of Total FatalitiesCrash Fatalities on County Roads
- 3.New Jersey30%474
Staying Safe While Driving on Every Type of Road
Life is unpredictable; we can find ourselves injured even if we stay home. That said, we can all recommit ourselves to driving safely.
It’s essential to make sure you’re financially well-protected by securing adequate car insurance coverage. Affordable car insurance is out there, and if you aren’t covered properly, you could spend a fortune on repairs in the aftermath of an accident.
Taking special precautions while driving on each road type can also help make you and others safer:
You’ll want to stay in the right lane when you can; the left lanes are for passing. Keep in mind that there are more entry points on a state highway, so if you aren’t paying attention, you could be surprised by a car turning into your path.
As with any road, you should drive within the speed limit and not text while driving. You really want to be alert. Distracted driving can turn deadly, and with local roads, there are usually far more stopping and starting and lane changes than on a freeway, for instance.
On these roads, follow the tips you would for state highways and remember to avoid a marathon day of driving. Take advantage of the many places you can stop and rest on a state highway. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that lack of sleep can make you less alert and impact your coordination, judgment and reaction time behind the wheel.
Keeping your eyes on the road and staying within the speed limit is good advice for any driving situation, but it’s imperative to do so on county roads, many of which are in the middle of nowhere. You could easily find an animal crossing the road, especially in the dark.
Choose your lanes wisely. Use the left lane (fast lane) sparingly. The right lane is for slower drivers, but drivers entering the freeway won’t be immediately merging into the middle lane. Therefore, the middle lane is ideal if you are covering a long distance and don’t want to do a lot of lane switching. In other words, practice smart road safety.
MoneyGeek reached out to industry leaders to get their insights on what governments can do to improve road safety.
- What do you think states could be doing to make their highways safer?
- Generally, what would you like to see cities, counties or states do to make roads safer for drivers?
Senior Research Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School
Chief Marketing Officer, Together for Safer Roads
MoneyGeek analyzed FARS data from 2018 to 2020 to find the total number of crash fatalities occurring on each type of road.
To calculate the deadliest type of road in each state, we analyzed all crash fatalities across each road type and identified the road type where the highest percentage of crash fatalities occurred. In our state-level analysis, interstates were not the deadliest road type for any state. Roads classified as “Unknown” or “Other” were excluded from the study.
If you have any questions about our findings or methodology, please email Melody Kasulis at email@example.com.
Full Data Set
Definition of Road Types:
- State Highway: High-speed roadway owned and maintained by the state.
- Local Street: Make up the majority of roads in the U.S. and provide primary access to residential areas, businesses and other local areas, typically with posted speed limits between 20 and 45 mph. This variable combines local streets in townships, municipalities and frontage roads.
- U.S. Highway: High-speed roadway owned and maintained by the federal government.
- County Road: Roadway owned and maintained by a state-recognized municipality or town.
- Interstate: High-speed roadway that serves interstate or regional traffic from state to state.
In addition to road types, the table below uses the following terminology:
- State Highway Fatality %: Percentage of crash fatalities that took place on state highways from 2018 to 2020.
- Local Street Fatality %: Percentage of crash fatalities that took place on local streets from 2018 to 2020.
- U.S. Highway Fatality %: Percentage of crash fatalities that took place on U.S. highways from 2018 to 2020.
- County Road Fatality %: Percentage of crash fatalities that took place on county roads from 2018 to 2020.
- Interstate Fatality %: Percentage of crash fatalities that took place on Interstates from 2018 to 2020.
- Total Crash Fatalities: The sum of all crash fatalities between 2018 to 2020 for all road types in the specified state.
State Highway Fatality %
Local Street Fatality %
U.S. Highway Fatality %
County Road Fatality %
Interstate Fatality %
Total Crash Fatalities
About the Author
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. "Drowsy Driving." Accessed August 25, 2022.