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For the second year in a row, fatal car crashes spiked in our nation, causing the total death count to be the highest it has been in nine years.
US Deptarment of Transportation via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), reported there were 37,461 traffic deaths in the U.S. alone in 2016.
- Fatality Rate – The rate of traffic deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
- Failure to Obey – The percentage of road fatalities involving not wearing seat belts, ignoring traffic safety devices, and driving with an invalid license.
- Drunk Driving – The percentage of fatal crashes involving a driver impaired by alcohol.
- Speeding – The percentage of driving deaths involving a driver who was speeding.
- Careless Driving – The rate that pedestrians and pedalcyclists are killed by motorists for every 100 thousand residents.
The rankings for each category were totaled for 51 final scores. The ten lowest scores belonged to the ten states with the best drivers in our nation.
Where the BEST Drivers in America Live
This topic couldn’t be more important with how much time the average American spends on the roads — over 293 hours annually!
“It’s clear that traveling by car remains a central part of American’s lives.” – Jurek Grabowski, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Director
That’s why our researchers completed an in-depth study to find out where the best drivers in our country live.
Read on to see if your state made the cut this year!
#10 – Michigan
Best Ranking: Failure to Obey – 2nd
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving – 36th
Being home to the car capital of the world, it’s great that Michigan sets a good example of obeying traffic laws for the rest of the U.S.
Michigan drivers are some of the best around at paying attention to traffic signals and obeying the laws, now they just need to learn to safely share the road.
#9 – West Virginia
Best Ranking: Drunk Driving – 9th
Worst Ranking: Fatality Rate – 39th
Sadly, the lower drunk driving rate isn’t enough.
The rate people are dying in traffic accidents in West Virginia is not only higher than that of the surrounding states, but it is a higher rate than the national average.
With nearly 75 percent of the state being covered in forest and winding roads, The Mountain State has some challenges ahead as they work to lower their traffic accident fatality rate.
#8 – Utah
Best Ranking: Drunk Driving – 1st
Worst Ranking (Tie): Failure to Obey & Careless Driving – 28th
Considering Utah has the strictest drunk driving laws in the nation, it is no surprise that this state has the least fatal crashes caused by alcohol-impaired drivers.
The maximum blood alcohol limit in Utah was lowered to .05 percent, which is a significant drop from the BAC .08, that’s legal in the rest of America.
It’s good that The Beehive State has cracked down on drunk driving, because the drivers here already struggle with paying attention to the roads and obeying traffic laws — their two worst rankings.
#7 – Massachusetts
Best Ranking: Fatality Rate – 1st
Worst Ranking: Drunk Driving – 41st
The Bay State has the lowest rate of traffic deaths in all of America. This is a huge accomplishment especially considering it’s home to one of the most congested cities in the nation.
Boston commuters spend an extra 154 million hours on the road each year thanks to traffic.
In addition to less traffic, this New England state could also benefit from less alcohol. In 2015 alone, 118 of the 306 total Massachusetts car crash deaths (39 percent) were alcohol related.
#6 – Vermont
Best Ranking: Drunk Driving – 4th
Worst Ranking: Speeding – 40th
Interestingly, Massachusetts’ greatest weakness is Vermont’s greatest strength — drunk driving. Now if Vermont drivers could only lighten their lead foot.
In 2015, 37 percent of the car crash fatalities in Vermont were a result of speeding.
It must be contagious because even a Rabbi was caught for speeding when in The Green Mountain State.
As you can see in this controversial video above, Vermont police take speeding (and eluding police) seriously.
#4 (Tie) – New Jersey
Best Ranking: Failure to Obey – 3rd
Worst Ranking: Careless Driving – 39th
What put The Garden State on this list was its drivers’ diligence to follow the traffic laws.
Sadly though, New Jersey has an overwhelmingly high pedestrian/pedalcyclist death rate. It’s a major safety concern when 188 pedestrians and pedalcyclists are killed in just one year in the fourth smallest state in the country.
New Jersey is the only Northeast or Mid-Atlantic state that doesn’t have any laws in place to protect cyclists.
Here are some safety tips from a man who commutes by bike every day all year from his New Jersey home in Red Bank to his job over three miles away in Eatontown:
These tips could save a life — drivers and cyclists should both pay attention. Finally, find your representative and urge them to consider laws to protect cyclists.
#4 (Tie) – Ohio
Best Ranking: Speeding – 8th
Worst Ranking: Fatality Rate – 19th
It’s impressive that The Buckeye State managed to land in the top 20 of the U.S. for all five categories we used in this ranking.
Although the state home to America’s first traffic light should have a better ranking than 18th for obeying such signals!
Every 7.9 hours someone was killed, and every 4.8 minutes someone was injured in an Ohio car crash in 2015.
Regardless of the exact cause, far too many Ohio drivers are dying. 1,110 people were killed on Ohio public roads in 2015, which was over 100 more lives this state lost each of the two previous years.
#3 – Virginia
Best Ranking: Speeding – 2nd
Worst Ranking: Drunk Driving – 32nd
With only 14 percent of all the traffic fatalities in this state being caused by speeding, Virginia is ranked the second best in the U.S. for driving at safe speeds.
The Old Dominion’s exceptionally high ranking for speeding, allowed it to make it in the top five despite its high rate of deaths caused by drunk drivers.
In 2015, 34 percent of those who died in car crashes on Virginia roads had a drunk driver to blame.
254 lives were cut short on Virginia roadways in that one year due to someone who thought it was okay to drink and drive.
#2 – Minnesota
Best Ranking: Fatality Rate – 4th
Worst Ranking: Drunk Driving – 36th
Like Virginia and Massachusetts, Minnesota’s driving flaw that’s causing the most traffic deaths is drunk driving.
There is no excuse to get behind the wheel impaired when there are always other options to catch a ride home. Minnesotans are well aware of this considering the first bus line, Greyhound, was born in this state.
411 people were killed in Minnesota car crashes in 2015, and 144 of those unavoidable, devastating deaths had a driver impaired by alcohol to blame.
As you can see in this video, DUIs are much more complicated and punitive than many realize, especially in Minnesota:
Hopefully driving habits improve so Minnesota can find itself on this prized list again next year.
#1 – Iowa
Best Ranking: Failure to Obey – 3rd
Worst Ranking: Fatality Rate – 18th
The state ranked fourth on this list last year, made a big jump to earn first for the Best Drivers in America!
But, even the state at the top of this list has great room for improvements with 320 people killed in car crashes in 2015 alone.
Fortunately not only are Iowa drivers excellent at obeying traffic laws, but The Hawkeye State now has stricter laws in place to minimize distracted drivers.
Here’s some info on Iowa’s new texting while driving law:
Iowa has now made texting while driving a primary offense which means you can be pulled over for this activity and receive a citation of $100.50 at the officer’s discretion. Don’t text and drive!
Strengths and Weaknesses
Among the ten states on this list, these tied for being the most common worst ranking factors:
- Careless Driving – Michigan, New Jersey, and Utah
- Drunk Driving – Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Virginia
- Fatality Rate – Iowa, Ohio, and West Virginia
And these tied for being the most common Best Ranking factors:
- Drunk Driving – Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia
- Failure to Obey – Iowa, Michigan, and New Jersey
To help you understand why our nation so desperately needs more good drivers like the ones on this annual list, here are some of the shocking U.S. death totals for 2015:
- Number of pedalcyclists killed by motorists – 818
- Number of pedestrians killed by motorists – 5,376
- Number of fatal crashes involving drivers with an invalid license – 6,573
- Number of fatal crashes involving drivers who were speeding – 9,557
- Number of people who died in crashes while not wearing a seat belt – 9,874
- Number of fatal crashes involving drivers ignoring traffic signals – 9,948
- Number of people who died in crashes involving a driver impaired by alcohol – 12,074
- Total number of Americans who died in fatal car crashes – 35,092
“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” – John F. Kennedy
Only one fatal car crash can result in multiple deaths, just like only one person practicing safe driving can result in multiple lives saved.
How YOU can be the BEST
Regardless of where you live, you must realize that the five factors we used in this ranking all are very likely to cause traffic accidents resulting in sudden, devastating deaths.
Navigate through the below links for advice on how to safeguard yourself and others on the road:
– Following Traffic Laws
– Avoiding Drunk Driving
– Driving the Speed Limit
– Sharing the Road
Don’t make a mistake you will spend the rest of your life wishing you could take back.
Complete Rankings: Best Drivers By State
– To sort the table by category, click on header columns.
|State||Fatalities Rate per 100 Million Vehicle Miles Traveled||Failure to Obey (Traffic Safety Device, Seat Belt, & Invalid Driver License)||Careless Driving||Drunk Driving||Speeding||Total Score||Ranking|
|District of Columbia||3||8||38||35||30||114||18|