Every 15 minutes in the U.S., a fatal car accident occurs on one of the nation’s highways or byways. A new report from Forbes Advisor analyzes five key metrics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to determine the safest and most dangerous states for driving.
Montana leads the nation as the most dangerous state for driving, according to the report. The Big Sky State has a higher-than-average number of fatal accidents and deaths per capita. The risk of a collision on Montana’s roads has also increased by 16% since 2019, and more than half of all collisions (51%) involve impaired motorists.
Other states that ranked among the top five most dangerous for driving include South Carolina, which came in second, followed by Wyoming, Missouri, and New Mexico.
The report also notes that the southern region of the U.S. has proved to be a high-risk place for motorists. For example, South Carolina, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina are all among the top 10 most dangerous states to drive in. In fact, research shows that red states — which most southern states are — tend to have more traffic deaths, attributed to factors such as more rural roads, less stringent safety laws, and lower income and education levels.
On the upside, New Jersey has the safest roads in America. The Garden State boasts a low rate of fatal car accidents per capita and some of the lowest rates of impaired driving and speeding-related fatalities in the nation. Surprised? While New Jersey is associated with high rates of traffic congestion and poor road maintenance, the state’s low fatality rates may be due in part to well-maintained rural roads and aggressive efforts to reduce fatalities in parts of the state such as Hoboken.
Other states that ranked among the top five safest states for driving include Massachusetts, which came in second, followed by Utah, Alaska, and Minnesota.
The report also highlights specific factors linked to high fatalities in select states. For example, South Carolina and Colorado experience the most fatalities due to excessive speed (46%) than anyplace else in the U.S.
However, several other states are not far behind when it comes to drivers with a lead foot. In Hawaii, some 44% of fatal crashes are due to speeding. In Missouri, 43% of fatalities occur because of speeding, while both Pennsylvania (41%) and New Mexico (40%) also experience high fatality rates associated with speeding.
Impaired driving significantly increases the risk of motor vehicle collisions. In Montana, 51% of fatal accidents are linked to impaired driving — the highest percentage in the nation. Rhode Island — though a tiny state — appears to have big impaired driving problem. It ranks second in the nation — 49% — for fatalities linked to impairment behind the wheel. Another New England state — Connecticut — also sees a substantial number of collisions related to impaired driving, some 46%, in fact.
To determine the safest and most dangerous states for drivers, the Forbes Advisor team examined five key metrics from NHTSA. These included the number of fatal car accidents per capita, total number of people killed in car accidents per capita, percent of fatalities from speeding, percent of fatalities from impaired driving, and the percent change in car accident fatalities from 2019 to 2020.