If you feel like you're constantly surrounded by subpar drivers, you might be onto something. Car-related deaths have risen a staggering 14 percent since 2015. A report from the III shows that car accidents rates are going up, and so too is the average cost of a car accident.
What's behind these disturbing trends? Two major factors:
- More mileage: Thanks in part to a strong economy, Americans are driving more than ever before. More time spent on the road equals more car accidents.
- Distracted driving: It seems that drivers can't help but text and tweet while behind the wheel. An estimated 660,000 people per day use an electronic device while driving, and nearly 3,500 people died due to distracted driving in 2015.
The stats are clear: America's got a driving problem. But America is a big country. We wanted to know how each state stacks up against each other. Who's worst, who's best, and who's average when it comes to driving? Find out below.
Based on the methodology detailed at the end of this study, we ranked states from worst to best. In other words, the first ranked state has the worst drivers, and the 50th ranked state has the best drivers. To simplify it, we've added a color code to the rankings and map. States with bad drivers are marked with darker shades of blue, while states with good drivers are marked with lighter shades of green:
- California: The dubious honor of having the worst drivers in the country goes to California. After jumping from second in our 2016 rankings, California is now firmly the worst. That's not surprising when you consider that, according to our recent study of the best and worst drivers in the US by city, five of the top 10 cities with the worst drivers are located in California. That includes the worst driving city in America – Sacramento. California's less-than-stellar drivers are somewhat notorious – especially in gridlocked Los Angeles. An increase in citations and DUIs helped drive the state to the number one spot in terms of bad drivers. In fact, California also set the worst standard in the US for DUIs on our rankings. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, California. Hopefully your assortment of beautiful beaches and national parks will be enough to provide some comfort from those dangerous roadways.
- Minnesota: One of the biggest movers from 2016 to 2017, Minnesota climbed nine spots from 11th to second worst drivers in the nation. By our metrics, Minnesota saw big increases in accidents, speeding, and citations. We're not the first to highlight Minnesota's driving, with one transplant describing the state's drivers as "too fast, too slow, too angry." What's causing this? For one, Minnesota's brutal weather – including ice, snow storms, and tornados – turns cars into Zambonis. Second, the infamous 'Minnesota Nice' makes drivers passive-aggressive and indecisive behind the wheel. If you find yourself driving through the streets of Minneapolis, keep your wits about you.
- Utah: Our study of the best and worst drivers by city found that Salt Lake City has the second worst drivers in the country. But, by our metrics, Utah's drivers have actually improved in the past year. Our 2016 state study put Utah firmly at number one as the worst drivers in America. This year they've managed to jump two spots down to third-worst. Much better than first-worst – well done Utah! The state improved in accidents, speeding, DUIs and citations.
Still, regardless of the better ranking, the numbers don't look pretty for Utah:
- Traffic deaths have increased for four years in a row
- More than 1,400 injuries from improper lane changes
- South Carolina: After jumping two spots closer to worst, South Carolina now has the fourth worst drivers in the country. What makes South Carolina drivers so bad? Well, this hilarious video does a great job demonstrating just how to dangerous the roads can be in SC. Spoiler alert: this video features surprise lane changes, distracted drivers, car horns, road rage, inattentive pedestrians, and plain ol' angry people. Once you start watching, you won't be able to stop. In terms of real data, South Carolina's jump from 2016 to this year is due to a big bump in DUIs.
- Washington: Is it the rain-soaked streets? Is it the legal weed? Is it Seattle's massive growth? We're not sure what's causing it, but the fact is that Washington drivers are less-than-stellar. From passive to inattentive, Seattle drivers have a particularly prickly reputation. Considering the fact that Washington went from 9th to 5th worst since 2016, we're prepared to blame the influx of transplants on the bad driving. Specifically, Washington's accident rate jumped from 33rd worst all the way to 14th worst since last year.
- Rhode Island: 2016's best driving state is now repeating its status as 2017's best driving state! Congratulations to Rhode Island on the back-to-back title. Propelling this repeat is the state's top marks for accidents, speeding, citations, and fatalities. Rhode Island's only blip, interestingly, is the fact that they're the 13th worst state for DUIs. But their apparent penchant for buzzed driving is not enough to overshadow their excellent performance in every other category.
- Florida: If you think the eponymous Florida Man means Florida terrible drivers, think again. Like Rhode Island, Florida held down their spot as the second-best drivers in America. The Sunshine State performed well in every category except fatalities, where the state ranks 21st worst.
- Mississippi: Life ain't easy in Mississippi. While the Hospitality State is known for being, well, hospitable, it also has an unfortunate reputation as a state with large waistlines and empty wallets. But it's not all bad news for Mississippi, as they earned their place as the 3rd best driving state in America. Good marks in accidents, speeding, citations, and the lowest DUI rating on our list were enough to make Mississippi 3rd best.
- Michigan: America's spiritual home of automobiles is also home to some solid drivers. Michigan maintains their spot on our list as America's 4th best drivers. Is it any surprise that the home of The Motor City has good drivers? Michigan performed admirably in every category save for one – DUIs. They were the 14th worst state for DUIs in 2016, and climbed to 7th this year. If Michigan drivers can slow down the drinking and driving, they'll have a chance of cracking the top three in 2018.
- Arkansas: Jumping one spot from 6th to 5th is Arkansas. It seems that The Natural State's beauty extends from the outdoors to the roadways. Arkansas scored extremely well in accidents, speeding, DUIs, and citations. The only thing preventing them from earning a better ranking is their high fatality rate. That's right – Arkansas ranked 13th for fatalities. But aside from the occasional vehicular homicide, it appears that Arkansas drivers are better than most.
Who's Better – Republicans or Democrats?
The 2016 election has stoked a partisan divide in America. To settle the debate, we decided to compare the driving rankings of red states and blue states. So, who's more competent behind the wheel?
The verdict is clear: according to our rankings, Republican states drive better than their Democratic counterparts. Red states earned a median ranking of 21st, while blue states came in at 28th. Additionally, of the 20 worst driving states, 12 are Democrat-leaning and 8 are Republican-leaning.
Three of the five best driving states are deep in the heart of the south, the most conservative region in the country. On the other hand, of the five worst driving states, two (California and Washington) are located on the ultra-liberal West-Coast, plus consistently-blue Minnesota. Congratulations, conservatives. It seems that your political leanings lend well to cautious driving.
How Bad Driving Affects Your Car Insurance Rates
Whether you live in one of the states with the best drivers or one of the states with the worst drivers, you need a strong auto insurance policy. This is especially true if you drive in California, Minnesota, Utah, South Carolina, Washington, or one of the bad driving states. Even if you're a great driver, living in an area with bad drivers makes your insurance premium more expensive. Why? If you're surrounded by bad drivers, you're more likely to get into an accident. Insurance companies use your zip code to determine the risk-likelihood in providing coverage for you.
What can you do to combat this? A lot of things, from bundling insurance plans to shopping around and comparing quotes from different insurance companies.
We sampled incident data (with more than two million data points) from the users of our website and juxtaposed it to Federal Highway Administration fatality data. To quantify overall driver standards for comparison, we weighted various incident totals for each state with its occurrence percentage. The rankings are a sum of weighted means calculated from these incidents:
- Speeding tickets