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Deadliest Types of Roads in the US (2022)

Last Updated: 9/1/2022
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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:

Key Findings:
  • 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.

Bar chart displaying total crash fatalities by road type

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 Fatalities
    Crash Fatalities on State Highways
  • 1.
    Pennsylvania
    57%
    1,919
  • 2.
    South Carolina
    57%
    1,768
  • 3.
    Hawaii
    56%
    174
  • 4.
    Maine
    56%
    250
  • 5.
    Massachusetts
    55%
    325
  • 6.
    Alaska
    55%
    91
  • 7.
    New Hampshire
    52%
    174
  • 8.
    Kentucky
    50%
    1,124
  • 9.
    Louisiana
    46%
    1,076
  • 10.
    Maryland
    46%
    726

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 Fatalities
    Crash Fatalities on Local Streets
  • 1.
    Arizona
    50%
    1,365
  • 2.
    Nevada
    41%
    378
  • 3.
    New York
    40%
    1,174
  • 4.
    Kansas
    40%
    492
  • 5.
    Idaho
    37%
    245
  • 6.
    Illinois
    32%
    938
  • 7.
    Indiana
    29%
    733
  • 8.
    Texas
    28%
    2,625
  • 9.
    Colorado
    28%
    511

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 Fatalities
    Crash Fatalities on U.S. Highways
  • 1.
    North Carolina
    38%
    1,005
  • 2.
    Wyoming
    35%
    131
  • 3.
    Nebraska
    33%
    237
  • 4.
    North Dakota
    30%
    90
  • 5.
    Montana
    29%
    165
  • 6.
    Virginia
    28%
    708

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 Fatalities
    Crash Fatalities on County Roads
  • 1.
    Minnesota
    40%
    450
  • 2.
    Michigan
    37%
    1,132
  • 3.
    New Jersey
    30%
    474
  • 4.
    Iowa
    28%
    279

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:

  • State Highways

    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.

  • Local Roads

    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.

  • U.S. Highways

    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.

  • County Roads

    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.

  • Interstates

    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.

Expert Insights

MoneyGeek reached out to industry leaders to get their insights on what governments can do to improve road safety.

  1. What do you think states could be doing to make their highways safer?
  2. Generally, what would you like to see cities, counties or states do to make roads safer for drivers?
Steven Kadish
Steven Kadish

Senior Research Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School

Kat Krieger
Kat Krieger

Chief Marketing Officer, Together for Safer Roads

Methodology

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 melody@moneygeek.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
State Highway Fatality %
Local Street Fatality %
U.S. Highway Fatality %
County Road Fatality %
Interstate Fatality %
Total Crash Fatalities

Alabama

27.6%

15.1%

18.4%

26.0%

13.0%

2,816

Alaska

54.8%

45.2%

0%

0%

0%

166

Arizona

18.7%

49.7%

8.9%

7.5%

15.1%

2,746

Arkansas

34.2%

9.5%

30.4%

11.8%

14.2%

1,660

California

45.4%

15.8%

7.7%

4.2%

26.9%

5,904

Colorado

20.1%

27.7%

23.5%

14.4%

14.4%

1,845

Connecticut

44.0%

29.8%

9.3%

0%

17.0%

830

Delaware

40.5%

15.4%

26.6%

9.4%

8.2%

331

Florida

33.3%

17.8%

25.7%

11.7%

11.4%

8,392

Georgia

36.5%

10.0%

13.3%

25.2%

15.0%

4,633

Hawaii

56.3%

0%

0%

34.6%

9.1%

309

Idaho

20.8%

36.9%

26.5%

0%

15.8%

664

Illinois

27.2%

32.2%

11.8%

12.1%

16.7%

2,912

Indiana

25.0%

28.6%

17.1%

17.6%

11.6%

2,559

Iowa

17.2%

18.1%

24.7%

28.2%

11.8%

989

Kansas

13.5%

40.1%

28.7%

4.2%

13.4%

1,227

Kentucky

50.3%

5.1%

27.5%

5.7%

11.5%

2,235

Louisiana

46.5%

13.1%

19.6%

7.0%

13.7%

2,315

Maine

55.7%

20.9%

14.9%

0.0%

8.5%

449

Maryland

46.2%

6.7%

14.2%

20.2%

12.7%

1,572

Massachusetts

55.3%

0.3%

13.6%

0.0%

30.8%

588

Michigan

22.1%

21.4%

9.5%

37.3%

9.7%

3,036

Minnesota

24.5%

13.2%

14.0%

39.9%

8.3%

1,127

Mississippi

32.1%

11.4%

22.6%

20.3%

13.6%

2,048

Missouri

38.4%

21.0%

16.0%

9.7%

15.0%

2,770

Montana

24.2%

12.6%

29.2%

18.1%

15.9%

565

Nebraska

19.8%

15.8%

33.3%

17.3%

13.8%

711

Nevada

25.8%

40.9%

18.4%

0%

14.9%

924

New Hampshire

52.1%

27.8%

9.9%

0%

10.2%

334

New Jersey

24.9%

16.9%

16.6%

30.1%

11.4%

1,576

New Mexico

29.8%

22.8%

21.7%

2.3%

23.4%

1,070

New York

34.1%

40.1%

5.7%

12.9%

7.1%

2,926

North Carolina

35.7%

11.5%

37.8%

0%

15.0%

2,660

North Dakota

15.5%

18.9%

30.4%

25.0%

10.1%

296

Ohio

30.7%

13.1%

15.2%

29.2%

11.7%

3,385

Oklahoma

26.3%

19.3%

24.4%

15.9%

14.0%

1,928

Oregon

29.2%

18.0%

20.7%

24.1%

8.0%

1,480

Pennsylvania

57.1%

16.2%

16.8%

0.7%

9.2%

3,361

Rhode Island

37.1%

28.6%

14.3%

0%

20.0%

175

South Carolina

57.0%

0%

26.6%

4.2%

12.1%

3,100

South Dakota

30.4%

12.6%

23.4%

21.0%

12.6%

372

Tennessee

26.7%

15.9%

25.0%

17.5%

14.9%

3,380

Texas

25.0%

28.4%

20.4%

8.1%

18.0%

9,230

Utah

37.5%

23.3%

17.9%

1.6%

19.6%

759

Vermont

39.4%

29.1%

20.0%

0%

11.4%

175

Virginia

20.1%

9.4%

28.4%

27.3%

14.7%

2,491

Washington

29.1%

22.4%

9.3%

26.6%

12.5%

1,586

West Virginia

32.5%

2.7%

27.3%

24.3%

13.2%

806

Wisconsin

30.1%

24.9%

13.4%

23.1%

8.4%

1,752

Wyoming

23.3%

5.4%

35.1%

9.4%

26.8%

373

About the Author


expert-profile

Geoff Williams has been a personal finance journalist since around the time of the Great Recession of 2008. He's been writing professionally since the 1990s about a variety of topics, including personal finance, credit cards and loans.

Williams is also the author of several books, including "Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America's Most Widespread Natural Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed It Forever" and "C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America."

Born in Columbus, Williams now lives in Loveland, Ohio, with his two teenage daughters.


sources
  • Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. "Drowsy Driving." Accessed August 25, 2022.