This guide was written by

MoneyGeek Staff
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”) 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 our findings:

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Among the findings:

  • The safest state to be a motorist is 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% 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, it has the highest percentage of fatalities involving drunk driving and non-use of seat belts. In addition, it has the second highest percentage of speeding and the third highest percentage 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 states more dangerous for pedestrians.
  • California and Florida are the states most deadly 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.
  • California and Florida are also the states more dangerous for pedestrians. Florida also has the second highest percentage of uninsured drivers (23.8%, compared to a national average of 12.6%).

The 10 safest states for motorists, in order of best to worst, are:

  • 1Massachusetts
  • 2Minnesota
  • 3District of Columbia
  • 4New Jersey
  • 5Vermont
  • 6Virginia
  • 7Utah
  • 8Washington
  • 9Oregon
  • 10Maryland

The 10 states most dangerous to drive, from most risky to less risky, are:

  • 1Montana
  • 2South Carolina
  • 3Arizona
  • 4Texas
  • 5West Virginia
  • 6Oklahoma
  • 7North Dakota
  • 8Louisiana
  • 9South Dakota
  • 10Florida

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, not using seatbelts or motorcycle helmets or drunk driving, 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.

Pedestrian and bicycle fatalities were measured per a population of 100,000. In addition, since motorcycles represent a much smaller share of vehicles on the road, we included only the relative increase in fatality risk in driving 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.