Worst States for Traffic-Related Fatalities (Updated 2022)

The worst states for traffic-related fatalities include Wyoming, Arkansas, and South Carolina. Read on to learn which state takes the top spot for most fatalities and how these statistics affect auto insurance rates.

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Melanie Musson is the fourth generation in her family to work in the insurance industry. She grew up with insurance talk as part of her everyday conversation and has studied to gain an in-depth knowledge of state-specific car insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. She also specializes in sustai...

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Written by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert Melanie Musson

Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Reviewed by Sara Routhier
Director of Outreach Sara Routhier

UPDATED: Jun 29, 2022

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Things to remember...

  • Texas is the state with the most car accidents, but Mississippi has the highest number of traffic-related fatalities per capita
  • Speeding is the leading cause of traffic-related deaths in the U.S.
  • Most fatal car accidents happen during the day in normal weather conditions

Despite advancements in telematics systems and other vehicle safety technologies, more than 35,000 people die in traffic accidents every year. That’s one person for every 100 million miles traveled. 

So, where do the most car accidents happen in the U.S.? 

The states with the most car accidents are Texas, California, and Florida. All three also rank among the deadliest states for pedestrians and bicyclists.

However, these states have some of the highest populations in the country. More people on the road increases the likelihood of an accident, but this doesn’t mean they are the worst states for driving.

In order to find the worst states for traffic-related fatalities, we looked at the highest fatality rates per 100,000 people. Here are the top five states with the most fatal car accidents per capita:

  • Mississippi
  • Wyoming
  • Arkansas
  • South Carolina
  • Montana

In addition, here are the top five states with the most pedestrian deaths per capita:

  • New Mexico
  • Florida
  • Delaware 
  • South Carolina
  • Arizona

As you can see, South Carolina ranks on both lists. 

Our study examines the leading cause of car accidents and vehicle deaths, as well as how the fatality rates in your state impact the cost of auto insurance. 

Safe drivers can earn discounts for keeping a clean driving record, which will help you save money on car insurance if you live in one of the top 10 states with the most fatal car accidents.

Top 10 Worst States for Traffic-Related Fatalities

Do you live in one of the most dangerous states for drivers in America? Mississippi had more traffic-related deaths per 100,000 people in 2019 than any other state.

StateNumber of Fatal Traffic Accidents per YearNumber of Deaths per 100,000 People% of Fatal Accidents Involving Alcohol% of Fatal Accidents With no Seat Belt
South Carolina1,00120.728%53%
New Mexico42418.831%54%
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At least 20 people per 100,000 died in traffic-related fatalities in Mississippi, Wyoming, Arkansas, and South Carolina. More than half of these fatal crash victims were drivers, but pedestrians and cyclists make up 10%-15% of traffic-related fatalities.

Both South Carolina and New Mexico were among the deadliest states for pedestrian and cyclist traffic fatalities in 2019.

StateTotal Number of Pedestrian DeathsTotal Number of Cyclist DeathsNumber of Pedestrian Deaths per 100,000 People
New Mexico8393.96
South Carolina160263.11
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California, Florida, and Texas may have the highest number of pedestrian deaths, but New Mexico is the most dangerous state for pedestrians compared to its population size. In New Mexico, 20% of fatal accidents involve pedestrians.

Cyclists make up a small percentage of traffic fatalities — the national average is 2%. New Mexico is on par with the national average. However, in Florida, 5% of fatal accidents involve cyclists, and the average is 3% in Delaware.

Which state has the most car accidents?

Texas has the most deadly car accidents, with 3,615 traffic-related fatalities in 2019. California is a close second, with 3,606 deaths. 

Since California is the most populous state in the country, followed by Texas, we examined the number of traffic fatalities per 100,000 people to find a more accurate portrayal of driving safety. 

In our study, Mississippi has the worst fatality rate, with more than 25 deaths per 100,000 people. Over a quarter of the fatal accidents in Mississippi are caused by drunk drivers, and nearly half occur on rural roads as opposed to freeways. 

What state has the fewest fatal car accidents?

Massachusetts has the lowest number of traffic-related fatalities per capita, with less than five deaths per 100,000 people.

State Number of Fatal Traffic Accidents per YearNumber of Deaths per 100,000 People
New York9315.2
Washington, D.C.235.2
Rhode Island676.1
New Jersey5846.3
New Hampshire1047.5
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Overall, the safest states have fewer than 10 deaths per 100,000 people. And, save for New York, fewer than 100 pedestrians and cyclists die in traffic-related accidents every year in the safest states.

What is the leading cause of vehicle deaths in the U.S.?

More fatal accidents occur on roads with speed limits of 55 mph or higher. 

Drivers going faster than the posted speed limit led to the most fatal crashes (17.2%) in 2019. Nearly 19% of these drivers had previous speeding convictions on their licenses.

Driving under the influence (10.1%) and failure to yield the right of way (7.3%) are the next major driving factors that lead to fatal accidents. Alcohol was involved in nearly a third of the traffic-related fatalities discussed above, and more than half of these accidents may have been avoided if the victims had been wearing seat belts.

However, more than 15,000 traffic-related fatalities are caused by unknown factors, and more than half of fatal accidents involve good drivers with clean driving records.

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Does location affect auto insurance rates?

Location is a significant factor in determining car insurance rates. Auto insurance companies consider traffic fatalities, commute times, and the auto theft rates in your city and state before issuing a policy.

The policy type and level of coverage you choose will also impact how much you pay. For example, each state requires minimum liability insurance, and these limits vary based on the number of accidents and uninsured motorists in your state.

Look at this table to compare average auto insurance rates by state.

Average Annual Liability and Full Coverage Auto Insurance Rates by State
StatesAverage Annual
Liability Auto Insurance Rates
Average Annual Full Coverage Auto Insurance Rates
District of Columbia$628.82$1,330.73
New Hampshire$400.56$818.75
New Jersey$869.57$1,382.79
New Mexico$488.03$937.59
New York$804.51$1,360.66
North Carolina$359.42$789.09
North Dakota$298.18$773.30
Rhode Island$759.80$1,303.50
South Carolina$527.09$973.10
South Dakota$300.22$766.91
West Virginia$491.83$1,025.78
National Average$538.73$1,009.38

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You likely pay more for auto insurance if you live in a state with a higher number of car accidents. However, you can still get cheap auto insurance quotes if you maintain a good driving record, park your car in a garage, and install additional safety features in your vehicle.

Do safe drivers get cheap auto insurance rates?

Insurance companies consider your driving record when calculating rates, and safe drivers pay less for car insurance because they are less likely to file a claim. For example, one car accident can raise your rates by $1,000 per year or more. 

See how rates vary based on driving record in this table.

Average Annual Auto Insurance Rates by Driving Record

Driving CitationAverage Annual Auto Insurance Rate
Clean record$3,328.16
With 1 speeding violation$3,617.80
With 1 accident$4,303.39
With 1 DUI$4,464
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Maintaining a good driving record can help you avoid higher rates in the future. Most insurers also offer discounts for safe drivers. Depending on where you buy auto insurance, you may be eligible to earn 5%-20% off your annual auto insurance rates. 

How can you earn safe driving discounts? 

Some drivers sign up for usage-based auto insurance and telematics programs to track their driving habits and earn discounts. 

If your insurer doesn’t provide telematics technology, you can earn discounts by taking defensive driving courses that will teach you how to better anticipate other drivers’ behaviors on the road. Most companies also reward drivers with reduced rates for remaining accident-free every year they renew.

Before you buy, remember you’ll find the cheapest auto insurance rates when you compare multiple companies online to find one that offers the safe driving discounts you need. 

What You Need to Know About the Worst States for Traffic-Related Fatalities

The worst states for traffic fatalities are Mississippi, Wyoming, and Arkansas. In addition, more than half of the top 10 states with the most fatal car accidents are in the Southern region of the U.S., meaning car insurance rates are more expensive in these states. 

Insurance companies consider the risk each state represents, including fatality, accident, and auto theft rates when determining quotes for local drivers. If you live in one of the worst states for traffic-related fatalities, you can expect higher auto insurance quotes. 

Maintaining a clean driving record is the easiest way to get cheap auto insurance rates in states with the most car accidents. For example, insurance companies will reward you with discounts if you take defensive driving courses and remain accident and claim-free during your annual policy. 

However, you may have to shop for insurance with high-risk companies if you’ve been involved in an accident. Rates for high-risk auto insurance are more expensive, but you can still find a competitive price when you shop around online and compare auto insurance quotes from multiple companies.

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Methodology: How to Determine the Worst States for Traffic-Related Fatalities

We used the 2019 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) FARS data to find the number of traffic fatalities per state. First, we considered how many auto deaths occurred per 100,000 persons to find an accurate representation based on each state’s population size. 

On average, 11 per 100,000 people die in auto-related accidents in the U.S. The worst states have a significantly higher rate of death per 100,000, with Mississippi being the state with the most fatal car accidents per capita (25.4 per 100,000).

We also considered the percentage of drunk driving-related fatalities and seat belt usage to determine how many of these fatal accidents were caused by careless drivers.

For pedestrians and cyclists, states were also ranked by the number of deaths per 100,000 to accurately represent population size.

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