What Are The Most Dangerous (And Safest) States For Driving?

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Map graphic of safest and most dangerous cities to drive inWhat are the most dangerous and safest states to drive in the USA? Can you guess where your state falls? We all have a perception of how risky our fellow drivers are on the road, but are your concerns backed up by the stats and facts?

Our analysis of the 2017 NHTSA traffic fatality data and 2017 U.S. Census estimates gives you the most recent rankings per capita of the most dangerous and safest states to drive in. Data from 2016 helped determine most rankings. Click here to jump to our rankings and map of the most dangerous and safest states for driving.

Car Accidents Trends By State

We also conducted a unique analysis of Google search trends about car accidents by state over the last year vs actual fatal accidents per state, based on 2017 NHTSA traffic fatality and U.S. Census data (the most recent data available). And we found some compelling results.

Mississippi topped the list as the most dangerous state to drive in for the second year in a row — and had among the fewest Google searches over the last year regarding car accidents and safe driving.

In contrast, Minnesota was the 3rd safest state for driving and had the highest number of Google searches for traffic accident concerns.

Most Dangerous & Safest States For Driving

We based our rankings on the most recent data we could find – NHTSA 2017 traffic fatality data and 2017 U.S. Census estimates to determine rates per capita for each state. Rankings reflect the rates of vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 residents.1,2

In 2017, Mississippi remained the most dangerous state to drive in for the second year in a row. New York moved into the top spot in 2017 as the safest state (up from 2nd place in 2016). The Empire State replaced Rhode Island as the safest state for driving — Rhode Island dropped from 1st to 9th place between 2016-2017.

Don’t see your state in the top 10 rankings? See below for how all 50 states rank.

Safest States For Driving In 2017Most Dangerous States For Driving In 2017
1. New York1. Mississippi
2. Massachusetts2. Wyoming
3. Minnesota3. South Carolina
4. New Jersey4. Alabama
5. Hawaii5. New Mexico
6. New Hampshire6. Montana
7. Washington7. Kentucky
8. Connecticut8. West Virginia
9. Rhode Island9. Oklahoma
10. Illinois10. Arkansas

Highlights Of Ranking Changes Between 2016-2017

Most states in the top 10 most dangerous and top 10 safest states from the 2016 data remained in the top 10 in 2017, only gaining or losing a few spots in the rankings. But there are two noteworthy exceptions:

  • West Virginia had a bad year, placing as the 8th most dangerous state. In 2016, West Virginia, the Mountain State, was the 15th most dangerous state.
  • In contrast, New Hampshire enjoyed a much safer year, landing in 6th place as the safest state (up from the 17th safest in 2016).

What State Has The Most Fatal Car Accidents?

In 2017, California had the highest number of traffic fatalities at 3,602 deaths, but the Golden State ranks as the 12th safest state when you factor in its high population.

Which State Has The Fewest Fatal Car Crashes?

On the other hand, Vermont had the lowest number of traffic fatalities in 2017 at 69 deaths, but the Green Mountain State ranks as the 28th most dangerous state given its low population.

Most Dangerous And Safest States For Driving Infographic

Map of safest and most dangerous states in the U.S. Caption: What Are The Most Dangerous And Safest States For Driving?

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Who’s Most Concerned About Driving In The U.S.?

Overall, the most noteworthy trend we found was that state residents who lived in the top 10 worst states for driving had far fewer Google searches about driving concerns and safe cars than their counterparts. Alternatively, many of the safest states to drive in had among the highest volumes of Google searches.

These findings raise some interesting questions. In general, are people who seek out information about driving-related concerns more safety-conscious on the road? Or, in the case of Florida and Georgia, are they searching for information because their fellow residents are unsafe drivers?

Most Car Accident-Related Searches

The following states had the most Google searches over the last year about traffic accidents and fatalities.

  1. Minnesota (3rd safest)
  2. Nebraska (17th safest)
  3. Utah (11th safest)
  4. Michigan (18th safest)
  5. Florida (17th most dangerous)

Methodology Note: We combined total searches for “car accidents,” “car crashes,” “fatal car accidents” and “worst drivers” in our Google search trend analysis. 

Most Car Safety-Related Searches

These states had the highest number of searches for safe cars and driving safety over the last year.

  1. Florida (17th most dangerous)
  2. Virginia (15th safest)
  3. Georgia (18th most dangerous)
  4. Washington (7th safest)
  5. New York (1st safest)

Methodology Note: We combined total searches for “safest cars,” “car safety ratings” and “safe driving” in our Google search trend analysis. 

National Driving Statistic Changes

Here are some noteworthy national statistics on fatal traffic accidents:1

  • Decrease in 2017 fatalities: National traffic fatalities decreased by 1.8% in 2017 from 2016. This came after two consecutive annual increases in 2015 and 2016.
  • Seatbelt Use: Nearly half (47%) of passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2017 were unrestrained (stats are from known restraint use).
  • Large Trucks: Large truck crashes resulting in fatalities increased 9% from 2016 to 2017. Large trucks include tractor trailers and single-unit straight trucks.
  • Speeding: Speeding-related fatalities declined by 5.6%, from 10,291 in 2016 to 9,717 in 2017.
  • Urban vs Rural: Urban fatalities have increased by 17.4% since 2008, while rural fatalities have declined by 18%.

Where Does Your State Fall?

Here’s our list of all 50 states ranked from the most dangerous (#50) to the safest (#1) per capita in 2017:

50. Mississippi (most dangerous)
49. Wyoming
48. South Carolina
47. Alabama
46. New Mexico
45. Montana
44. Kentucky
43. West Virginia
42. Oklahoma
41. Arkansas
40. Louisiana
39. Kansas
38. Tennessee
37. North Dakota
36. Missouri
35. South Dakota
34. Florida
33. Georgia
32. Arizona
31. Idaho
30. North Carolina
29. Indiana
28. Texas
27. Maine
26. Delaware
25. Nebraska
24. Colorado
23. Vermont
22. Alaska
21. Wisconsin
20. Oregon
19. Iowa
18. Michigan
17. Nevada
16. Ohio
15. Virginia
14. California
13. Maryland
12. Pennsylvania
11. Utah
10. Illinois
9. Rhode Island
8. Connecticut
7. Washington
6. New Hampshire
5. Hawaii
4. New Jersey
3. Minnesota
2. Massachusetts
1. New York (safest)

Tips To Stay Safe On The Road

Even if you follow all the best safety practices while you’re driving, you can’t control other drivers and unexpected incidents. Is there anything you can do? Yes; become a defensive driver!

The video below has some excellent initial tips to help you stay safe when conditions are beyond your control. Also, consider taking a defensive driving course.

Breakdown Of Drunk Driving Statistics By State

Which factors contribute to the most traffic fatalities? Alcohol-impaired drivers, speeders and distracted drivers (we are looking at those of you who text while driving!) are the biggest culprits. If you’re concerned about DUI fatalities and arrests in your area, be sure to check out our article on drinking and driving by state.

What worries you most about unsafe drivers where you live?

Sources: [1] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 2017 Fatal Motor Crashes, [2] U.S. Census Bureau

About The Author:

While attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s graduate school for journalism and public relations, Sally began a long career researching and writing about hard-to-understand topics, such as insurance and finance.

Her additional experience in marketing, fundraising, public relations and financial planning at various foundations and nonprofit organizations over the years has given her the practical tools to inform consumers about making the smartest business and personal financial decisions.

Speaking of smart living — growing up in the (at-the-time) per-capita murder capital of the U.S. (Richmond, VA) taught her a thing or two about the need for personal and home safety. Sally stays on top of all the latest gadgets and services to protect her and her teenage daughters from potential predators and thieves. And she brings this knowledge to every article she writes.

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