In the midst of the end of the year holidays, it’s fun to get swept up in the lights, the gifts, and the excitement of seeing loved ones to celebrate such a special season. For many, what makes Christmas and New Year’s a magical time of year is spending it with friends and family.
To see loved ones during the holidays, people often resolve to take to the roads and drive long distances.
But driving during one of the “busiest long-distance travel periods of the year” creates a unique set of challenges (National Household Travel Survey).
During Christmas and New Year’s, it’s over 50 percent more likely that families and individuals will go on a road trip lasting longer than 50 miles. The possibility of facing a long road trip means that many people on the roads during this holiday season are traveling through multiple states as quickly as they can.
Because of this, it is important to know more about the states we travel in, or those we plan to drive through in the future, in order to gain a better understanding of how safe the roadways are and how likely it is that we will be involved in a car accident.
Read through this article to see if any of the states you plan to drive in this holiday season make our list of the Best Highways by State.
Then, enter your zip code into our FREE tool above to find car insurance rates that work for you!
To compile information for this study, we used data collected in the following categories:
- Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate
- Percent of Drivers without Seatbelts
- Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient
- Highway Deaths per 1,000 Highway Miles Traveled
- Federal Funding
- IIHS Death Rates
The information we collected came from the following sources:
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- The Federal Highway Administration
- The United States Census Bureau
- The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Our rankings for each category go from one to 51 — we included the District of Columbia — with the lowest score representing the state with the safest highways and the highest score representing the state with the most dangerous highways in each respective category.
You can find a chart with the complete rankings below.
Top 10 Safest Highways
#10 – Maine
Best Ranking Factor: Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate: 1
Worst Ranking Factor: Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient: 40
Coming in at #10 on our list, Maine boasts the safest highways with regard to Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate. Drivers in Maine obey the posted speed limits on interstates and highways, and this has helped many stay safe on the roads.
#9 – Nevada
Best Ranking Factor: Percent of Drivers without Seatbelts: 10
Worst Ranking Factor: Highway Deaths per 1,000 Highway Miles Traveled: 33
While a score of 10 for the Percent of Drivers without Seatbelts is nothing to brush over, drivers in Nevada need to stay alert while traveling long distances in order to avoid having tragic accidents.
#8 – North Dakota
Best Ranking Factor: Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient: 1
Worst Ranking Factor: IIHS Death Rates: 48
North Dakota boasts a top score with regard to Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient. But they also sit in 48th place for Death Rates as determined by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
To offer an example, the state saw 706 deaths as a result of car accidents over a five-year period.
Needless to say, North Dakota has a long way to go before it can be considered the state with the safest highways in America.
#7 – Delaware
Best Ranking Factor: Highway Deaths per 1,000 Highway Miles Traveled: 1
Worst Ranking Factor: Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate: 51
Coming in at #7, Delaware seems to be its own special paradox.
Boasting a simultaneous first-place in Highway Deaths per 1,000 Highway Miles Traveled and last-place in Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate, it seems as though driving in Delaware can be both safe and treacherous depending on which statistics matter to you the most.
With an above-average score for IIHS Death Rates (28), the state certainly still has some work to do to become a safer place to drive.
#6 – Wisconsin
Best Ranking Factor: Highway Deaths per 1,000 Highway Miles Traveled: 2
Worst Ranking Factor: Percent of Drivers without Seatbelts: 40
Our #6 spot goes to the Dairy State.
Wisconsin scored below-average in IIHS Death Rates (22) and Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate (16), and that is certainly something to celebrate.
#4 – Nebraska
Best Ranking Factor: Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient: 3
Worst Ranking Factor: Percent of Drivers without Seatbelts: 36
Nebraska ties with Alaska for the #4 spot on our Best Highways by State list. While Nebraska maintains reasonably safe highways, because nearly 20 percent of drivers in Nebraska choose to drive without wearing their seatbelts, the state sees many unnecessary fatal accidents each year.
#4 – Alaska
Best Ranking Factor: Federal Funding: 1
Worst Ranking Factor: Highway Deaths per 1,000 Highway Miles Traveled: 51
With a top score for Federal Funding, Alaska ties with Nebraska for #4.
With below-average scores for Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate (2), Percent of Drivers without Seatbelts (21), Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient (22), and IIHS Death Rates (16), Alaska seems to be a relatively safe place to drive.
But with the worst possible score for Highway Deaths per 1,000 Highway Miles Traveled, Alaskan drivers prove that they still have a lot to work on.
#3 – Oregon
Best Ranking Factor: Percent of Drivers without Seatbelts: 1
Worst Ranking Factor: Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient: 41
Coming in at #3, drivers in Oregon are happy to obey the law and wear their seatbelts. Scoring consistently under 20 for Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate (14), Highway Deaths per 1,000 Highway Miles Traveled (7), and IIHS Death Rates (15), Oregon seems like a very safe place to drive.
#2 – Iowa
Best Ranking Factor: Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate: 3
Worst Ranking Factor: IIHS Death Rates: 27
The #2 spot on our Best Highways by State goes to the Corn State.
Drivers in Iowa should be proud of themselves. They stayed below-average in every category except IIHS Death Rates, and while this category and its implications are important, Iowa drivers certainly drive with safety and precaution in mind.
#1 – Minnesota
Best Ranking Factor: Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient: 2
Worst Ranking Factor: Federal Funding: 34
Minnesota tops our list at #1 for the Best Highways by State.
Scoring under 15 for Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate (9), Percent of Drivers without Seatbelts (13), Highway Deaths per 1,000 Highway Miles Traveled (4), and IIHS Death Rates (7), it’s evident that Minnesota boasts the safest highways in the U.S.
Points of Interest
Based on the Total Score of each state, our #7 through #10 spots were separated by less than seven points. Additionally, Vermont missed making it onto our list by just one point.
It’s also interesting — and may be considered common sense — to note that even the states with the best highways in America have some serious work to do when it comes to accident prevention, obeying the law, and overall safe driving.
The staggering number of deaths due to fatal crashes in the U.S. each year is astonishing and we as Americans need to do our part to protect not only our lives but the lives of others as well.
One way we can work to protect our roadways is to drive defensively. Because human error is “responsible for 94 percent of all car crashes,” we need to take our role as motorists seriously (NHTSA).
Defensive driving helps us drive with purpose, avoid distracted driving, and commit to obeying common driving laws, specifically with reference to drinking or texting and driving.
Start driving defensively today by focusing on the following tips:
- Look ahead – Focus on more than what is immediately in front of you.
- Maintain a safe distance – Never follow a vehicle too closely.
- Go with the flow – You should never drive over the speed limit. But driving under the speed limit is also dangerous. Be sure to keep a safe pace based on the traffic that surrounds you.
- Make yourself visible – Use your signals when you turn; use your headlights if it’s dark. Do your best to make sure other cars on the road know that you’re there.
- Reduce driving distractions – Put away your phone, food, drinks, and other distractions and focus solely on the road.
If we can all commit to driving defensively — staying alert and focused and refusing to partake in dangerous activities while behind the wheel — we can make our highways safer in each and every state.
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Complete Rankings: Best Highways by State
– To sort the table by category, click on header columns.
|State||Interstate Speeding Fatalities per Mile of Interstate||Percent of Drivers w/o Seatbelts||Highway Bridges Rated Obsolete or Deficient||Highway Deaths per 1,000 Highway Miles Traveled||Federal Funding||IIHS Death Rates||Total Score||Safest Highways Rank|
|District of Columbia||43||18||51||28||7||1||148||20|