Top States in the US With the Worst Drivers

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This guide was written by Sara East

Sara East Sara East is a freelance writer and content marketing professional based in Reno, NV. She specializes in content on insurance, mortgage, business and travel.

States With the Best and Worst Drivers

On any road on any day, you're likely to encounter your fair share of good and bad drivers. According to the NHTSA, while road fatalities were down 2.4% in 2018 compared to 2017, the more than 35,000 deaths that occurred could have been avoided.

Fortunately, new vehicles with enhanced safety technology are assisting in the continuing decline of motor fatalities, but some bad behaviors behind the wheel remain problematic. From distracted driving to driving under the influence, there are a variety of ways that our driving can quickly go from good to bad.

While bad drivers span across the U.S., there are some states that land higher (or lower) on the list than others. But ranking a state's best and worst drivers takes more than just looking at accident statistics. MoneyGeek ranked the best and worst drivers in the U.S. by state based on several metrics. Each state received an overall driver score calculated from factors in the categories of safe choices, safe habits and having auto insurance.

Which states made the list for states with the best and worst drivers? New Jersey came out on top for having the best drivers with an overall score of 88.5, and Montana came in last with an overall driver score of 28.9.

That’s not to say that New Jersey ranked at the top for all three of our safe driving ranking factors. Massachusetts had the highest score for safe choices, and Minnesota had the highest score for safe habits. Overall, however, New Jersey remains the state with the best drivers. Alaska and South Carolina were a close second and third for states with the worst drivers.


How Does Your State Rank?

Woman after car accident trying to use her phone to call for help

There are a variety of ways to rank good and bad driving. MoneyGeek used several factors to create a unique ranking system that provides an overall driver score for each state.

These factors included criteria such as fatalities and arrests related to DUIs, speeding, seat belt usage, distracted driving and accidents with uninsured motorists.


Driving Insights

Determining whether someone is a good or bad driver requires looking beyond fatalities at the larger picture. By combining a variety of metrics and insights, an overall view of driver habits and road safety for each state begins to emerge.

States Where People Drive the Most and Least Miles

People who drive a lot aren’t necessarily better drivers. Statistically speaking, the more miles a person drives, the more likely they are to get in an accident. In fact, men tend to drive more miles than women, and men are also involved in more fatal accidents. All of MoneyGeek’s metrics are based on vehicle miles to account for differences in miles per person.

BEST

  • StateMiles Per Capita
  • Wyoming18,067
  • Alabama14,560
  • Mississippi13,638
  • New Mexico13,023
  • North Dakota12,967
States Where People Drive the Most and Least Miles

WORST

  • StateMiles Per Capita
  • New York6,320
  • Alaska7,441
  • Rhode Island7,575
  • Hawaii7,664
  • Pennsylvania7,973

States With the Highest and Lowest DUI Arrest Rates

When you drive while impaired, not only are you putting yourself at risk but everyone else on the road as well. In 2018, accidents where drunk driving was involved accounted for 29% of road fatalities. Even when drunk driving doesn’t lead to a fatal accident, it brings with it a host of other problems worth avoiding. A DUI usually results in having your license revoked and a significant increase in your insurance premiums. With a variety of ridesharing options, it’s never been easier to prevent a DUI.

BEST

  • StateArrests Per Billion Vehicle Miles Traveled
  • South Dakota606
  • Alaska574
  • North Dakota521
  • Washington443
  • Pennsylvania429
States With the Highest and Lowest DUI Arrest Rates

WORST

  • StateArrests Per Billion Vehicle Miles Traveled
  • Illinois26
  • Delaware42
  • Alabama90
  • Louisiana113
  • Ohio120

States With the Highest and Lowest Rates of Seatbelt Usage

It’s estimated that seat belts have saved 374,276 lives since 1975. The majority of drivers understand the value of buckling up, demonstrated by the fact that the national use rate of seat belts is 90.7%. Whether you’re behind the wheel or riding as a passenger, the small act of buckling up can save your life in an accident.

BEST

  • StatePercent of Observed Safety Belt Use of All Drivers
  • Louisiana97.8
  • Maine96.3
  • Indiana95.9
  • Florida95.8
  • Mississippi94.6
States Where People Drive the Most and Least Miles

WORST

  • StatePercent of Observed Safety Belt Use of All Drivers
  • Connecticut76.4
  • Colorado78.0
  • Rhode Island78.9
  • North Dakota80.2
  • Oklahoma81.6

States With the Highest and Lowest Rates of Insured Drivers

Getting in an accident with an uninsured motorist can be a headache for everyone involved. Ultimately, you'll be responsible for the damage done to your car if the person you’ve collided with doesn’t have protection.

BEST

  • StatePercentage of Drivers with Insurance
  • Maine95.5
  • New York93.9
  • Massachusetts93.8
  • North Carolina93.5
  • Vermont93.2
States With the Highest and Lowest Rates of Insured Drivers

WORST

  • StatePercentage of Drivers with Insurance
  • Florida73.3
  • Mississippi76.3
  • New Mexico79.2
  • Michigan79.7
  • Tennessee80.0

Methodology

To rank good and bad drivers, MoneyGeek analyzed data from a variety of sources, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Administration. To create the rankings, seven key driving statistics were utilized:

  • State population
  • Vehicle miles traveled
  • Driving under the influence
  • Speeding
  • Restraint use
  • Distracted driving
  • Uninsured drivers

For each of these factors, we investigated related metrics such as fatal crashes related to speeding and DUIs, distracted driving, unrestrained fatalities and the estimated percentage of uninsured drivers. We grouped these metrics into three ranking factors: Safe Choices, Safe Habits, and Percent of Drivers with Insurance.

Safe Choices: Using DUI fatalities, DUI arrests and speeding fatalities, this ranking reflects the overall rate of safe choices that drivers make while on the road.

Safe Habits: By examining distracted-driving and unrestrained fatalities, this ranking reflects safe-driving practices such as avoiding distracted driving and using seat belts.

Percentage of Drivers with Insurance: A good driver is a responsible driver. This ranking looked at the number of drivers who have adequate car insurance. This information is important not only to gauge driver responsibility but also for third-party drivers who may get in an accident with an uninsured motorist.

Ranking Data and Their Weights

Each data point is weighted on key aspects of being a good driver. That's why certain states, like New Jersey, may not rank #1 in all three mini rankings, but they still come out as the overall state with the safest drivers. New Jersey ranked highest in safe choices, which holds an overall higher importance than safe driving habits.

Safe Choices: 55% weight overall
2018 DUI Fatality Rate Per 1B Miles Traveled – 25%
2018 DUI arrests per miles traveled – 5%
2018 Speeding Fatality Rate (per Billion Miles) – 25%

Safe Habits: 35% weight overall
Percent of observed safety belt use of all drivers (2018) – 20%
Unrestrained Fatality Rate (per 1B Miles Travelled) – 10%
Distracted Driving Fatality Rate (per 1B miles traveled) – 5%

Percentage of Insured Drivers
Estimated Percentage of Uninsured Drivers – 10%

Sources

Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Table 69.” Accessed February 28, 2020.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “Fatality Facts 2018 State by State.” Accessed February 28, 2020.

Insurance Research Council. “Uninsured Motorists, 2017 Edition.” Accessed February 28, 2020.

Kaiser Family Foundation. “2019 Employer Health Benefits Survey.” Accessed January 16, 2020.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “2018 Data: Alcohol-Impaired Driving.” Accessed February 28, 2020.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Fatality and Injury Reporting System Tool (FIRST).” Accessed February 28, 2020.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Crash Stats: Seat Belt Use in 2018 - Use Rates in the States and Territories.” Accessed February 28, 2020.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “2018 Roadway Fatalities Report Released.” Accessed February 29, 2020.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Traffic Deaths Decreased in 2018, but Still 36,560 People Died.” Accessed February 29, 2020.

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. “Federal – Aid Highway Travel – 2018.” Accessed February 28, 2020.