Eyes on the Road: States with the Most Car Accidents

From fender-benders to head-on collisions, car accidents can directly harm your safety and insurance costs.

Across the nation, American drivers are no strangers to dangers on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that the U.S. is host to an average of 6 million car crashes per year. According to the World Health Organization’s 2018 Global Status Report on Road Safety, America’s on-road fatality rate is 12.4 percent, making the rate of fatal crashes in the United States over 50 percent higher than those of similar countries such as the UK, Canada, and Japan.

Driving habits in the U.S. tend to skew to the riskier end of the spectrum. Given America’s extreme traffic death rate, it’s clear that drivers across the nation should take highway safety more seriously. However, car crash rates are not uniform across all states. Variation in factors such as travel patterns, state-level traffic safety laws, and local driving norms means that some states’ roads are fundamentally more hazardous than others.

On a broad scale, recognizing the prevalence of car accidents in America can work to inform insurance policy and traffic laws to improve highway safety and decrease the number of fatal accidents. Laws such as seat belt requirements and driver education programs have been proven to immensely reduce crash deaths, according to the Federal Highway Administration. For individuals, knowing the accident trends in your state can help you understand how policy factors, such as accident forgiveness, may contribute to your insurance costs. The team of analysts at Insurify, an auto insurance quotes comparison site, examined the data to determine car crash rates by state and answer the question: which state has the most car accidents?

Insights

National average. Across all 50 states, the average percentage of accident-prone drivers is 12.45 percent. Michigan’s rate — which is the lowest of any state —is less than half of this overall average, at 6.18 percent. Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Nevada followed with the lowest rates of at-fault drivers nationwide.

Hazardous driving standards across the country. In the United States, the average percentage of drivers with a prior speeding violation is 11.69 percent — a figure which is understandably significantly higher than that of drivers with a prior DUI at 2.02 percent. For reckless driving violations, states on average had 18.16 incidences per 10,000 drivers. 

State accident rates are not standalone measures of overall dangerous driving. Paradoxically, the states with the highest rates of accident-prone drivers are not necessarily the states with the highest rates of other risky driving indicators. While speeding violations were found to be statistically correlated with prior accident rates, other violations, such as driving under the influence (DUI) and driving with a suspended license, were not. A striking example of this inconsistency is North Dakota, which has both the highest rate of drivers with suspended licenses (6.31 percent) and the second-highest rate of DUI’s (5.01 percent). However, its rate of drivers with a prior at-fault accident hovers below the national average at 11.87 percent. Accident rates are not necessarily correlated with the presence of fatal car accidents for every state.

Methodology

The data science and research team at Insurify, a website to compare auto insurance quotes, turned to its database of over 2.5 million car insurance applicants to find the states with the highest accident rates. As part of the quoting process, drivers disclose their driving record, including whether or not they’ve had an at-fault accident, a speeding violation, a DUI, or a citation for reckless driving within the past seven years. Comparing these risky drivers to the total pool of car owners gave the share of motorists with a history of accidents and other driving violations for each state. Due to the significantly smaller proportion of reckless driving cases compared to the other violations, the frequency of motorists with a reckless driving conviction is displayed out of a population of 10,000 car owners.

States with the Most Accidents

10. Oregon

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 13.93%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior speeding violation: 13.33%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior DUI: 2.02%
  • Number of drivers with a prior reckless driving incident: 17 out of 10,000

Oregon may be known for its picturesque natural beauty and quirky urban aesthetics, but its rate of accident-prone drivers is anything but charming. At 13.93 percent, Oregon’s rate of drivers with prior at-fault accidents is 11 percent higher than the national average. While its shares of drivers with past DUI or reckless driving infractions are relatively standard, Oregon’s record of speeding violations, which stands at 13 percent above the national average, is not nearly as commendable. This statistic may seem surprising given that Oregon drivers are rumored to be notoriously slow, especially on highways and during rush hour. However, Oregon’s slow speed of traffic may end up making speeding more noticeable and more hazardous, as those drivers who do break the speed limit are more likely to cause disruption or eventual crashes.

9. Utah

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 14.08%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior speeding violation: 14.38%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior DUI: 2.31%
  • Number of drivers with a prior reckless driving incident: 11 out of 10,000

Utah drivers may not be particularly hazardous, as both their DUI rate and incidence of reckless driving stand below the national average. However, similar to the case of Oregon, the higher than average proportion of drivers with speeding violations may contribute to Utah’s position as one of the most accident-prone states in the country. This trend complies with the finding that states with greater volumes of accidents may not necessarily follow that pattern when it comes to critically dangerous driving behaviors, such as driving while under the influence or purposefully driving with negligence.

8. Nebraska

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 14.38%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior speeding violation: 14.58%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior DUI: 3.65%
  • Number of drivers with a prior reckless driving incident: 26 out of 10,000

As we move to the midwest, it seems that drivers exercise less caution on the road. Unlike the states before it in this list, Nebraska’s stats exceed the national averages on all fronts. Its rates of drivers with a prior DUI or reckless driving offense especially stand out, at 38 percent and 31 percent higher than the norm, respectively. For a state with a relatively low population density, Nebraska’s ranking suggests that traffic congestion and overcrowded streets are not always definitive determinants for accident prevalence. Having the eighth highest frequency of at-fault accidents along with a high volume of these other moving violations makes Nebraska a noticeably risky place to hit the road.

7. Ohio

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 15.17%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior speeding violation: 17.89%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior DUI: 2.84%
  • Number of drivers with a prior reckless driving incident: 24 out of 10,000

Not only does Ohio sit at seventh in the nation for its percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident, but it also has the highest proportion of speedy drivers of any state. Ohio’s accident rate is 18 percent higher than the nation’s average and the state has 35 percent more drivers with speeding violations. While Ohio’s DUI rate is only slightly higher than average, the share of motorists with reckless driving citations is nonetheless concerning, at 25 percent above the average. The Buckeye State could benefit from easing up on the gas pedal and embracing a more leisurely pace lest it continue to hold one of the highest accident rates in the nation.

6. South Carolina

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 15.41%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior speeding violation: 16.52%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior DUI: 1.08%
  • Number of drivers with a prior reckless driving incident: 35 out of 10,000

With a surprisingly lower than average rate of drivers with prior DUI's — especially compared to its other statistics — South Carolina's accident rate presents a fascinating case. At fourth in the nation, South Carolina doesn’t trail too far behind Ohio In terms of speeding. It also occupies the seventh-highest rank for reckless driving in America. South Carolina may be known for its vacation destinations like Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head, but it seems that drivers in this state have resisted the inclination to take it slow and steady on their roads, racking up automobile accidents and earning their state a spot on this list.

5. New Hampshire

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 15.71%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior speeding violation: 12.78%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior DUI: 2.13%
  • Number of drivers with a prior reckless driving incident: 30 out of 10,000

A less temperate locale, New Hampshire ranks fifth in the nation for its percentage of drivers with an at-fault accident, which exceeds the national average by 21 percent. The U.S. Census Bureau categorizes the majority of New Hampshire’s land areas as rural, meaning that many of the state’s roadways do not see the type of concentrated traffic more common in urban regions. Based on New Hampshire’s high volume of reckless driving incidents (it ranks 8th in the nation), a possible determinant of this state's accident rates could be a lack of common discretion on these less congested, open roads, leading to an abundance of carelessness and an increase in driving errors.

4. Rhode Island

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 15.78%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior speeding violation: 8.71%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior DUI: 1.1%
  • Number of drivers with a prior reckless driving incident: 14 out of 10,000

The smallest state is certainly making a big name for itself as fourth in the U.S. for its rate of accident-prone drivers. However, Rhode Island's below-average statistics for other driving violations subscribes to the finding that high rates of accident-prone drivers do not necessitate high rates of other driving violations. Although Rhode Island has the fifth smallest state population according to the U.S. Census Bureau, its population density is the second-highest in the nation. The inevitable congestion and overcrowding on roads due to its dense population are likely prominent factors that contribute to Rhode Island’s great volume of driving accidents.

3. Maryland

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 16.63%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior speeding violation: 10.7%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior DUI: 1.27%
  • Number of drivers with a prior reckless driving incident: 13 out of 10,000

Following a similar trajectory, Maryland has comparatively low rates of speeding violations, DUI's, and reckless driving incidents despite having the third-highest frequency of accidents. As home to over six million residents, with a population density that is fifth-highest in the country, Maryland has a lot of traffic for drivers to push through. With many residents commuting in and out of D.C. daily, Maryland roads can get quite congested, leading to an increase in car crashes.

2. Maine

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 16.86%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior speeding violation: 11.96%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior DUI: 2.67%
  • Number of drivers with a prior reckless driving incident: 12 out of 10,000

Continuing with the overrepresentation of the Northeast in the top five most accident-prone states, Maine comes in second with an accident rate nearly 1.4x the national average. Unlike Rhode Island and Maryland, Maine has a low population density, meaning that the issues of heavy traffic and congestion likely are not significant contributors to its rate of car accidents. However, Maine’s DUI rate, which is notably 15 percent higher than the national average, suggests that the lack of densely populated roads may lead to greater negligence and irresponsible driving behaviors. When drivers are accustomed to driving with less diligence on open roads, they may end up in more grave circumstances whenever they do encounter other unexpected cars.

1. Massachusetts

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 17.14%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior speeding violation: 9.63%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior DUI: 1.29%
  • Number of drivers with a prior reckless driving incident: 8 out of 10,000

Massachusetts holds the top spot for the highest percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident in America. While 17.14 percent of Massachusetts drivers in this study reported having been in an at-fault motor vehicle accident — the highest of any state — Massachusetts drivers cannot necessarily be labeled as “wicked bad” or irresponsible, with their speeding, DUI, and reckless driving rates all below the national average. As the third most densely populated state in America, the high rate of car crashes in Massachusetts is likely influenced by a high concentration of traffic on the Bay State’s roadways. The reputation of these drivers as notoriously rude may not be entirely false, but the level of congestion Massachusetts residents experience daily is likely enough to aggravate even the kindest of drivers.

If you have questions or comments about this article, please contact insights@insurify.com.

This paid content is provided by Insurify. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of iHeartRadio.

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