MoneyGeek's Nationwide Road Safety Study

Road Safety Study: Best and Worst States for Drivers

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Data gathered in December 2016

In its recent 50-state analysis of car insurance, MoneyGeek analyzed federal road safety data to create safety rankings for each state and the District of Columbia. To do that, we crunched state, federal and insurance industry data (see "Methodology" below) on road safety laws, uninsured drivers and traffic fatalities in each state, giving more weight to fatalities that involved preventable risks such as speeding.

Among the findings:

  • The safest state to be a motorist is in Massachusetts. Overall driving-related fatalities have dropped there each decade since 1975. Massachusetts boasts lower percentages of risky driving behaviors than most states, the second-smallest percentage of driving fatalities per mile traveled and the highest percentage of insured drivers in the country. Only 3.9% of drivers in this state drive without car insurance, compared to 12.6% nationwide, according to the last available study from the Insurance Information Institute.
  • Montana is the most dangerous state for motorists. Montana not only has the highest percentage of fatalities from total vehicle crashes, but it also has the highest percentage of fatalities involving drunk driving and non-use of seat belts. In addition, it has the second-highest rate of speeding, along with the third-highest rates of pedestrians killed and deaths among motorcyclists not wearing helmets. For unknown reasons, it is also the only state that hasn't put any statewide restrictions on texting while driving.
  • There's more to look out for than alligators in Florida: If you're walking, you'd better watch your step. Florida (501 deaths) and California (701 deaths) are the most dangerous states for pedestrians. Florida also has the second-highest percentage of uninsured drivers (23.8%, compared to a national average of 12.6%).
  • California and Florida are the most deadly states for cyclists. The bike-friendly state of California saw more deaths of cyclists than any other state, followed by Florida. Per capita, Florida saw more deaths than any other state, followed by California.
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10 SAFEST STATES FOR MOTORISTS (BEST TO WORST)
  1. Massachusetts
  2. Minnesota
  3. District of Columbia
  4. New Jersey
  5. Vermont
  6. Virginia
  7. Utah
  8. Washington
  9. Oregon
  10. Maryland
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10 MOST DANGEROUS STATES FOR DRIVERS (MOST RISKY TO LESS RISKY)
  1. Montana
  2. South Carolina
  3. Arizona
  4. Texas
  5. West Virginia
  6. Oklahoma
  7. North Dakota
  8. Louisiana
  9. South Dakota
  10. Florida

Methodology

We created a traffic safety ranking for all 50 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia, by analyzing data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

To create the rankings, we examined traffic fatalities in each state and gave more weight to those that involved risky and preventable behaviors such as speeding, drunk driving or not using seatbelts or motorcycle helmets, as well as accidents involving more than one party (multi-vehicle accidents). By crunching these figures, we created rankings for the nation's 10 safest and most dangerous states for motorists.

We also looked at uninsured driver data and motorcycle/bicycle helmet use from the Insurance Information Institute and the Governors Highway Safety Association. We reviewed fatality rates by distance traveled (the rate per billion miles traveled, or BMT) in most cases.

We measured pedestrian and bicycle fatalities per 100,000 people. In addition, since motorcycles represent a much smaller share of vehicles on the road, we included only the relative increase in fatality risk in riding a motorcycle. We gave total fatalities a neutral weight as the baseline for the section.

This was part of a larger study on car insurance rates, in which MoneyGeek analyzed more than 2.7 million car insurance policies.

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