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36,560. That’s not the number of businesses bankrupt due to the coronavirus or the average a person needs to save each year to reach their retirement goals. Nor is it the average salary in America. What is it?

Hint: It has something to do with the states with the worst drivers.

36,560 is the number of people who died in 2018 car crashes. 36,560 men, women, and children . . . some drivers, others passengers, and some merely a pedestrian or bicyclist in the wrong place at the wrong time.

36,560 lives were lost due to one of many factors including a dangerous section of road, bad weather, a vehicle defect, etc. However, the most common cause of car crashes: a deadly decision a driver makes behind the wheel.

And that’s just in 2018. Each year, the number of people killed in car crashes rises above 30,000, and many people or organizations call for a change. Even as technology makes driving safer, people still die. And in the states we’ll cover in this ranking, people die at a much higher rate.

These are the 10 states with the worst drivers, where lives are more in danger on the roads — the states where people speed and drink and drive are careless and don’t obey traffic signals.

In the graph at the top of the page, you can see the 10 states with the worst drivers in 2020, along with how many times each state has appeared in the list of 10 worst states since 2011. The higher a state is ranked, the worst its drivers performed. Alaska, the No. 1 state, for instance, is the state with the worst drivers in 2020.

While the states with the worst drivers pose a threat to life and safety more than any other factor, insurance rates in these states are likely to be higher than average, as accidents lead to claims and claims lead to an insurance company paying out money. Visit our state car insurance rates page for more information about finding the cheapest rates in your area.

Back to the 10 states with the worst drivers. If you live in one of these states, chances are you already know this. But we have a surprise for you: the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which shows you which states have risen or fallen and which states have remained in their current positions.

This is our ranking of the bad drivers in 2020, with a focus on fatal accidents — the relationship between fatal car crashes and bad drivers.

It may be tempting to say that all of these bad drivers are just crazy drivers, the kind that weave in and out of lanes at a high speed or text on a cellphone, but the truth is, these 10 states with the worst drivers have serious issues, including drunk driving and pedestrian deaths. We’ll cover those issues as well.

Let’s get started.

States with the Worst Drivers in America

The worst drivers share some characteristics based on the five categories we judged them on. The graphic below shows the worst category for each state in this ranking. Failure to obey and death rate pop up the most often and are the largest problems drivers in the 10 worst states face.

We explain all the categories in our methodology section if you want to understand the statistics in detail before starting the ranking.

10 states with the worst drivers - worst categories

The next graphic shows the 10 best categories for each state. On the opposite side of the problems with death rate and failure to obey are the categories where the 10 states with the worst drivers do the best: drunk driving, speeding, and careless driving.

In the cases of these categories, the 10 worst states are roughly near the median for all states. The one issue that almost all of the 10 states with the worst drivers share is death rate. There are just two states with death listed as a best category. That makes sense as the death rate is an incredibly important factor in our study, one that combines all four of our other categories.

Now, let’s blitz through with some new states compared to last year’s ranking and some that have remained the same. Two regions are implicated the most, suggesting that driving culture may play a role in which states have the worst drivers or not. Ready? Here’s the start of the 10 states with the worst drivers, starting with a well-known state on these lists: Arkansas.

#10 – Arkansas

Best Category: Speeding

Worst Category: Death Rate & Failure to Obey

Ranked 10th in this list of the states with the worst drivers, Arkansas’ best category is speeding while there is a tie for its worst categories — death rate and failure to obey. Of its total traffic deaths of 516 in 2018, 131 are related to speeding. This means that 25.4 percent of its traffic deaths came in situations where at least one of the drivers was speeding.

Arkansas scores 1.4 traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles driven. 46.1 percent of its fatal crashes in the failure to obey category involved someone not wearing a seat belt or not having a valid or legal license.

Arkansas experienced the second-largest rise for the 10 states with the worst drivers, falling 24 spots from its 2019 ranking to put it into the list of the 10 states with the worst drivers.

#9 – Delaware

Best Category: Death Rate & Drunk Driving

Worst Category: Failure to Obey

Delaware, ranked 9th in this list of the states with the worst drivers, saw a tie for its best category: death rate and drunk driving. Its worst category turned out to be failure to obey. The death rate in Delaware for 2018 was 1.1 traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, which is right in the middle of all states.

Just 35 or 31.5 percent of its 111 traffic deaths occurred when a driver had been drinking.

Within the failure to obey category, 40.6 percent of Delaware’s fatal crashes came when a driver or passenger wasn’t wearing a seat belt or a driver didn’t have an active or legal driver’s license. Like Arkansas, Delaware experienced a rise in its ranking between 2019 and 2020, gaining three spots to get listed in the 10 states with the worst drivers.

#7 (Tie) – South Carolina

Best Category: Failure to Obey & Drunk Driving

Worst Category: Death Rate

Ranked in a tie for 7th in this list of the states with the worst drivers, South Carolina saw its best categories in failure to obey and drunk driving, while its worst category was death rate. In the category of failure to obey, just 36.2 percent of South Carolina’s fatal crashes occurred when a person was not wearing a seat belt or if at least one of the drivers did not have an active or legal driver’s license.

Of South Carolina’s total traffic deaths of 1,037 in 2018, just 335 came when at least one of the drivers had alcohol in their system. That amounts to 32.3 percent of its total traffic deaths.

South Carolina finished dead last in its worst category — death rate — with 1.83 traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

As already noted, that’s the worst rate of all states and the District of Columbia. South Carolina also sits in the top 10 — No. 1 to be precise — in our ranking of the most dangerous highways by state. This ranking is compounded by the issue of speeding, which our experts believe would have prevented 37 percent of fatal crashes if the driver or drivers had not been exceeding the speed limit.

In good news, South Carolina becomes our first state that rises in the ranking, jumping five spots from the state with the second-worst drivers to 7th place in a tie with our next state: Hawaii.

#7 (Tie) – Hawaii

Best Category: Failure to Obey

Worst Category: Drunk Driving & Speeding

Hawaii, ranked in a tie for 7th with South Carolina in this list for the 10 states with the worst drivers, has its best category in failure to obey with two categories tied for its worst category — drunk driving and speeding. In failure to obey, just 35.4 percent of its fatal crashes occur when someone wasn’t wearing a seat belt or at least one of the drivers had an inactive or illegal license.

Of its 117 total traffic deaths in 2018, 45 traffic deaths in Hawaii came when one or more of the drivers had been drinking, which was good for 38.5 percent of its 117 total traffic deaths.

But there were 51 deaths relating to speeding, Hawaii’s other worst category, which accounted for 43.6 percent of all traffic deaths.

Hawaii rose seven spots between its ranking in 2019 and this ranking in 2020, going from on the outskirts of the 10 states with the worst drivers to a tie for 7th-worst.

Often, rankings for the states with the worst drivers rely on traffic deaths and the percentage of crashes involving an issue like speeding. But there’s another variable that’s difficult to measure but important: the deadliness of vehicles. See which vehicles make the top 10 of our ranking of the most deadly vehicles in history dating back to 1960.

#6 – Nevada

Best Category: Speeding

Worst Category: Failure to Obey & Careless Driving

Ranked 6th on this list of the 10 states with the worst drivers, Nevada has its best category in speeding and a tie for its worst category between failure to obey and careless driving. Within the category of speeding, Nevada ranks roughly in the middle of all states. Of its 330 total traffic deaths in 2018, 92 or 27.9 percent came from speeding.

35.3 percent of Nevada’s fatal accidents in the failure to obey category came when someone wasn’t wearing a seat belt or at least one of the drivers had an invalid or illegal license.

In its other worst category (careless driving), 87 pedestrians or bicyclists were killed in 2018 for a rate of 2.9 deaths per 100,000 people. That amounted to 26.4 percent of Nevada’s traffic deaths. While Nevada was in the ranking of the 10 states with the worst drivers last year at 10th, it rose four spots this year to place 6th overall.

#5 – Colorado

Best Category: Death Rate & Careless Driving

Worst Category: Failure to Obey

Colorado, ranked 5th in this list of the 10 states with the worst drivers, had two categories tied for its best category — death rate and careless driving — with its sole worst category being failure to obey. For the category of death rate, Colorado had 1.2 traffic deaths in 2018 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

Approximately two pedestrians or bicyclists were killed per 100,000 residents in Colorado, which accounted for 17.6 percent of all traffic deaths in 2018.

In its worst category of failure to obey, 43.9 percent of its fatal crashes came when someone wasn’t wearing a seat belt or at least one of the drivers did not have an active or legal driver’s license. Colorado did not move much from its 2019 ranking to its 2020 ranking, rising just one spot. 

#3 (Tie) – Texas

Best Category: Speeding

Worst Category: Drunk Driving

Ranked in a tie for 3rd on this list of the 10 states with the worst drivers, Texas has just one category per best and worst categories: speeding as the best category and drunk driving as the worst category. Of its 3,642 traffic deaths in 2018, 990 involved speeding. This amounted to 27.2 percent of all traffic deaths. This was near the middle of the pack for all states.

Texas rose quite a bit when it came to its worst category — drunk driving — where it ranked third-worst out of all states and the District of Columbia in 2018.

Of its 3,642 traffic deaths, 1,673 involved a driver that had been drinking. This accounted for 45.9 percent of all traffic deaths. Texas was featured in the 2019 worst drivers study at 5th, meaning that its ranking rose two slots in 2020.

#3 (Tie) – Montana

Best Category: Careless Driving

Worst Category: Failure to Obey

Montana, ranked in a tie for 3rd on this list of the 10 states with the worst drivers, has its best category in careless driving and its worst in failure to obey.

Just 17 pedestrians and bicyclists died in traffic accidents compared to Montana’s overall traffic deaths of 182, which accounts for just 9.3 percent of those overall traffic deaths.

The difference between its best and worst categories is perhaps the largest we’ve seen on this list. For the category of failure to obey, 63.1 percent of Montana’s fatal crashes came when someone wasn’t wearing a seat belt or at least one driver had an invalid or illegal license. Montana was also featured in last year’s list of the 10 states with the worst drivers but rose five slots from 8th to 3rd.

#2 – New Mexico

Best Category: Speeding

Worst Category: Careless Driving

Ranked 2nd in our list of the 10 states with the worst drivers, New Mexico had its best category in speeding and its worst in careless driving. Of its 391 traffic deaths in 2018, 132 or 33.8 percent involved speeding. For this category, it ranked in the worst 15 states nationwide.

In its worst category of careless driving, 94 pedestrians and bicyclists were killed in traffic accidents in 2018, or 24 percent of all traffic deaths.

4.5 pedestrians or bicyclists killed per every 100,000 residents of New Mexico, ranking the state as the worst in the country for this category.

New Mexico actually fell one spot from its 2019 ranking, making way for a new state with the worst drivers in the country, one that might surprise you.

#1 – Alaska

Best Category: Careless Driving

Worst Category: Drunk Driving & Speeding

Alaska, ranked as the state with the worst drivers in 2020, had its best category in careless driving and a tie for its worst category — drunk driving and speeding. Of its 80 traffic deaths in 2018, just 14 pedestrians were killed, which amounted to 17.5 percent of all traffic deaths. It actually ranked near the middle of the pack in this category.

But its worst categories of drunk driving and speeding drag it down and are two of the factors in Alaska’s 2020 appearance in this list of states with the worst drivers. The categories of drunk driving and speeding account for 97.5 percent of Alaska’s total traffic deaths in 2018. 

Of its 80 overall traffic deaths, 36 came when a driver drank and drove. This accounted for 45 percent of all traffic deaths. Another 42 involved speeding, amounting to 52.5 percent of all traffic deaths.

Trends in the Deadliest States for Driving

When we determined the 10 most dangerous states — those with the worst drivers — a few things jumped out at us. These ranged from the geography of the 10 states with the worst drivers to which categories each state struggled with, compared to which categories the 10 states struggled with overall.

The first note is that the states are predominantly located in the West and South. Including Alaska, five states in the 10 states with the worst drivers are located in the West.

Six of our 10 states with the worst drivers are in the West. The other four states are located in the South.

The 10 states with the worst drivers struggled with a couple of key categories: careless driving and failure to obey. The following list shows the average rankings for the 10 states with the worst drivers for each category. As mentioned in the section before the ranking, the higher the number, the worse the drivers.

Death rate: 15.2

Failure to obey: 14

Careless driving: 13.2

Drunk driving: 15.9

Speeding: 16.7

Together, the 10 states with the worst drivers accounted for 7,038 or 19.3 percent of traffic deaths compared to 36,560 traffic deaths from all states in the United States. 31.2 percent of the traffic deaths in the 10 states with the worst drivers involved speeding. This behavior is not just dangerous for other drivers but can impact drivers financially as well, as it is considered a moving violation that impacts insurance rates.

40.5 percent came when at least one driver drank and drove. 18.9 percent of those traffic deaths were pedestrians or bicyclists. Up to 47.7 percent of all fatal crashes in the failure to obey category occurred when someone didn’t wear a seat belt. Up to 23.1 percent came when at least one driver had an invalid or illegal driver’s license.

The average death rate for all 10 states with the worst drivers was 1.34 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. South Carolina was the worst with a 1.83 death rate. Hawaii was the best with a 1.07 death rate. Understated in these statistics is that the causes of fatal car accidents are often lumped in under one definition — reckless driving. Visit our reckless driving videos page to see real-life examples of the dangers of reckless driving.

Driving Strengths & Weaknesses Across America

Now, let’s turn to the statistics for driving nationwide. While we talk a lot about states in this article, there are certain trends among driving in general.

First, check out the graph below that shows each state’s rank in this list of the states (plus the District of Columbia) with the worst drivers. The darker the purple, the better drivers that state had. The graph is interactive: Hold your cursor above a state (desktop or laptop) or press down on a state (mobile) to see the state’s ranking dated back to 2016.

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With that graph, you can clearly see that the regions in the United States with the worst drivers were the West and the South. States in the Northeast and Midwest tend to do better on these types of rankings, as well as those featuring states with the best drivers.

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The next graph below spotlights each state’s worst category: death rate, failure to obey, careless driving, drunk driving, and speeding. As with analyzing the worst drivers per region, it is interesting to see which regions struggle with a particular category. This graph is also interactive, so hold your cursor over a state or press down on a state with your finger to show that state’s worst and second-worst categories for 2020.

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