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The average person doesn’t realize how dangerous traveling by car in the U.S. can be.
In 2017 there were 37,133 fatal car crashes in America—4,389 more crashes (where people died) than in 2014!
To be clear: one fatal crash does not = one death. Just one fatal traffic accident often claims multiple lives and almost always has multiple victims whose lives – at the very least – are changed forever.
In fact, the 37,133 deadly crashes in 2017 cost 40,100 people their lives. That’s far too many preventable deaths in one year by one cause. Clearly, we can do better!
Let’s start off 2019 by focusing on some good news: the drivers in our country who save lives with their safe driving.
These responsible, safe drivers are also saving money on their car insurance. If you’ve accomplished accident-free driving, you should be saving on your premiums too. Use our free tool to compare a few policies in your area to make sure you’re getting the low rates you deserve.
Quick links to key topics covered in this article:
- Bottom Five States: Best Drivers
- Top Five States: Best Drivers
- Best Driver Common Weaknesses
- Best Driver Common Strengths
- Traffic Death Totals in America
- Complete Rankings for all States
- Previous Results for this Study
- Our Ranking Methodology
Previous Results for this Study:
For all media inquiries, please email: Josh Barnes
Where do the BEST drivers in the U.S. live?
We spend a lot of time focusing on the bad, scary stats in our field. Why? because nothing is more telling than death totals.
Unlike most, this annual article puts the focus on the standout drivers in our country who set aside distractions, focus on the road, hail a ride when necessary, and take the responsibility of driving seriously—like we all should!
These drivers make U.S. roads safer. They deserve a reward (cheaper car insurance at the very least) and some attention. Read on to learn what these drivers are doing right.
Are you fortunate enough to live among the best? Better yet, are YOU one of the best?
#10 – Ohio
Best Ranking: Careless Driving – 8th
Worst Ranking: Drunk Driving – 18th
As you can see in the powerful, heart-wrenching video above, texting and driving has been a major problem in Ohio for many years now.
In April 2018, Ohio Department of Transportation (called ODOT) created its first ever Distracted Driving Safety Corridor to put an end to the hundreds of deaths occurring every year due to drivers not keeping their eyes on the road.
With nearly 400 traffic deaths involving a driver impaired by alcohol in 2016, Ohio also needs to focus on putting an end to drunk driving if it wants to remain on this annual Best Drivers report.
#9 – Maryland
Best Ranking: (Tie) Drunk Driving & Speeding – 7th
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving – 32nd
Only 19 states had worse results for careless driving than Maryland.
What allowed Maryland to still land on this Best Drivers list was ranking in the top ten in our four remaining categories: fatality rate, failure to obey, speeding, and drunk driving.
It seems Maryland’s campaign “Toward Zero Deaths” is working since the state managed to jump from a safest driver ranking of 18th all the way to 9th since 2015.
#8 – Utah
Best Ranking: Drunk Driving – 2nd
Worst Ranking: Failure to Obey – 23rd
As you can see in the above CBS news report, Utah lowering its legal BAC limit from .08 to .05 instantly made it the strictest state in the nation for drunk driving and caused quite a bit of backlash.
Utah’s efforts to end drunk driving – albeit not winning the popularity vote – are clearly working. This state has achieved having the lowest drunk driving death rates in the nation for several years now.
In 2016, 232 fatal car crashes in Utah had two major components in common:
- Caused: one or more people to be killed
- Involved: ignoring traffic signs, failing to wear seat belts, or invalid licenses
Since they have been so successful decreasing drunk driving deaths, the “Failure to Obey” category is what Utah leaders need to crack down on next.
#7 – New Jersey
Best Ranking: Speeding – 1st
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving – 34th
It’s miraculous New Jersey managed to land on this 2019 Best Drivers list considering it earned the lowest “worst ranking” out of this year’s top ten. Only 17 states fared worse for Careless Driving.
What redeemed New Jersey, keeping it on this Best Drivers list for the second year in-a-row, was having the lowest rate of speed-related traffic deaths in the country.
Terrifying fact: even the state with lowest speeding death rate was found to have average highway speeds at 20 mph over the posted speed limit!
#6 – New York
Best Ranking: Drunk Driving – 1st
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving – 30th
Ironically, the state located directly above New Jersey on the map is ranked one above for having the Best Drivers in the nation. While New Jersey dropped from 4th to 7th in this study since last year, New York made an remarkable leap from 18th to 6th.
New York is ranked first for having the lowest percentage of traffic fatalities involving drivers with a BAC of .01-.07 (0.23 percent) AND of .08+ (1.43 percent) in all of America.
Now for the bad news: there were 342 pedestrians and bicyclists killed in New York in 2016 alone making Careless Driving a category in desperate need of improvements. It’s not alone—The Empire State is one of six states on this top ten list that has Careless Driving as its greatest weakness.
#5 – Washington
Best Ranking: (Tie) Drunk Driving & Failure to Obey – 5th
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving – 17th
As you can see in the above video the Washington state governor created the plan, “Target Zero,” with the lofty goal of eliminating ALL traffic deaths across the state by 2030.
“Well, what if it were one of your family members? Is any number acceptable? So, thus grew the title Target Zero…by doing some innovative things we think we can get there by 2030. We want to be very aggressive in this approach.” – John Batiste, Washington State Patrol Chief
There’s still significant safety improvements that need to be made. In 2016, there were 537 traffic deaths on Washington’s public roads.
Here’s an eye-opening breakdown for those crash fatalities:
- Pedestrians Killed: 84
- Bicyclists Killed: 17
- Speeding Related Deaths: 154
- Alcohol Related Deaths: 186
#4 – District of Columbia
Best Ranking: Failure to Obey – 2nd
Worst Ranking: Speeding – 12th
Every state should implement what has worked so well on the busy city streets of Chicago and Washington D.C., known as “traffic calming.”
“…there’s a $250 fine if you don’t stop at a crosswalk…It’s not that people don’t want to obey the law. Sometimes they literally don’t know…We’ve seen a dramatic decrease in speeding in the city, and we’ve had an 83 percent decline in fatalities.” – Gabe Klein, author of “Start-Up City“
This public safety education has clearly gone a long way. Washington D.C. has not only made drastic decreases in crash deaths, but compared to the rest of the U.S., D.C. is ranked second only to Rhode Island for having the lowest number of fatal crashes caused by drivers ignoring traffic laws.
#3 – Rhode Island
Best Ranking: Failure to Obey – 1st
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving – 20th
Rhode Island has made some great accomplishments: ranking third in the nation for having the best drivers overall and also ranking in the top three states for the majority of the driving categories in this study.
Here are those categories and Rhode Island’s impressively low death/fatal crash totals for 2016:
- Alcohol Related: (Ranked 3rd) death count: 3 (BAC .01-.07) and 19 (BAC .08+)
- Fatality Rate: (Ranked 2nd) 0.64 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled
- Failure to Obey: (Ranked 1st) only 25 total fatal crashes with this cause statewide
The focus now needs to be on eliminating the unnecessary deaths caused by careless driving. Sadly the pedestrian death reported in the news clip above is all too common for “Little Rhody.”
Even though Rhode Island is the smallest state in the country, it still managed to have 14 pedestrians killed on its roads in 2016 alone, and the preliminary data for 2017 is looking much worse at over double that, 36 pedestrian fatalities.
#2 – Massachusetts
Best Ranking: Fatality Rate – 1st
Worst Ranking: Drunk Driving – 12th
The video above was meant to stir the pot. It discusses how Utah lowered the legal BAC to .05 and why Massachusetts probably won’t even though it will save lives:
“If it would save lives here, why shouldn’t Massachusetts follow suit? No reason. But, we likely won’t because we often lag behind others when it comes to drunk driving laws thanks to an active defense lawyer lobby and broad public apathy.” – Jon Keller
There were 156 people killed in Massachusetts car crashes that involved an impaired driver in 2016. A shocking 40 percent of the state’s total traffic fatalities were alcohol related!
It’s devastating that defense lawyers and public apathy are keeping the drunk driving death total high in what would otherwise be a state full of safe drivers.
#1 – Minnesota
Best Ranking: Fatality Rate – 3rd
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving – 7th
Out of all our study conclusions for this year, what really stood out was how Minnesota managed to rank top ten for the best in the country in not just one but all five of the driving categories.
Here are Minnesota’s inspiring results:
- Careless Driving – (Ranked 7th) death rate: 0.13
- Drunk Driving – (Ranked 4th) death rates: 0.43 (BAC .01-.07) and 1.68 (BAC .08+)
- Fatality Rate – (Ranked 3rd) 0.66 traffic deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled
- Failure to Obey – (Ranked 6th) fatal crash rate: 4.64
- Speeding – (Ranked 5th) death rate: 1.67
Note: The above death and fatal crash rates are for every 100,000 residents of Minnesota.
Zero deaths and fatal car crashes would be better, but Minnesota’s per capita crash results are extraordinary. The roads are safer in “The North Star State” thanks to the best drivers in the nation that make them that way.
However, as you can see in the above horrifying CBS news report released January 2019, Minnesota still has serious problems to fix. There have been far too many pedestrians killed on crosswalks that are lacking proper lighting and road markings.
What do the best drivers in the U.S. need to work on?
The most common worst ranking factor for the states on this 2019 Best Drivers list was: Careless Driving.
The states with the best drivers in the nation have a common (and very serious) weakness: too many pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities.
Change needs to be made, but angry protests, blocking intersections, and resorting to violence only puts more people in danger.
To drive home how serious careless driving is, here are the 2016 deaths totals for the ten states home to the best drivers:
- Pedestrians – 983
- Bicyclists – 132
Downright Horrifying: That’s 1,115 people killed by vehicles (while not in a vehicle themselves) in just one year in the ten states with the BEST drivers.
What do the best drivers in the U.S. do right?
The most common best ranking factor for the ten states on this 2019 list was: Drunk Driving.
The states with the best drivers in the nation have a common strength: they don’t drink and drive!
It makes sense that this is the common strength among the best drivers, because our study is based on fatality rates. Here’s why: Drunk driving is very successful at causing car crashes and claiming lives.
Want to know a key step in becoming a safe driver? Never getting behind the wheel impaired!
This ad has over one million views on YouTube for a reason. Just one wrong choice could mean never coming back.
“Make a plan to make it home. Your friends are counting on you…DON’T DRINK & DRIVE“
What were the U.S. traffic death totals?
Even the ten states with the best drivers have a lot of work to do in order to make their roads safer and in turn, save lives.
Many states have the created campaigns with the set goal of reaching zero traffic deaths, but no one area in the U.S. has been able to accomplish this so far.
Here are the shocking death totals in America for the two most recent years the definitive data is available:
|Fatal Car Crash Statistics for the U.S.||2015:||2016:|
|Drunk Driving Deaths||10,265||10,500|
|People Killed NOT Wearing a Seat belt||9,968||10,428|
|Fatal Crashes: Drivers Ignoring Traffic Signs/Signals||9,948||10,100|
|Fatal Crashes: Drivers with an Invalid License||6,699||7,304|
|Total Traffic Deaths in America||35,485||37,461|
Wrong Way! Every single fatal crash category had increases in collisions and fatalities in just one year.
Clearly, we have a long way to go as a nation. The death counts just keep increasing.
Will it take eliminating the driver from the act of driving before we finally see a difference??
Food for Thought: Is the human race too selfish and flawed to do what it takes to put an end to all these preventable deaths?
How were scores tallied to rank the top ten best?
Using NHTSA data from their most up-to-date fatal crash reports, our expert analysts collected 2,193 data points to rank all 50 states and D.C. across the following five main categories:
- Careless Driving – The rate that pedestrians and pedalcyclists are killed by motorists for every 100 thousand residents
- Drunk Driving – The per capita percentage of fatal crashes involving a driver impaired by alcohol
- Fatality Rate – The rate of traffic deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled
- Failure to Obey – The per capita percentage of road fatalities involving not wearing seat belts, ignoring traffic safety devices, and driving with an invalid license
- Speeding – The per capita percentage of driving deaths involving a driver who was speeding
The rankings for each category were totaled for 51 final scores. The ten lowest scores belong to the ten areas with the best drivers in our nation.
Best Drivers By State (The Complete Rankings
|State||Fatalities Rate per 100M Vehicle Miles Traveled||Failure to Obey||Careless Driving||Drunk Driving||Speeding||Total Score||2019 Rank|
|District of Columbia||4||2||11||11||12||40||4|