Worst States for Traffic-Related Fatalities (Updated 2020)

South Carolina ranked 1st for the worst state for traffic-related fatalities, with a 1.78 fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. This annual study has found troubling stats for South Carolina drivers three years now. Six of the states that are the worst for traffic fatalities are located in the Southeast and the other four are located in the Southwest.

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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 automa...

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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

UPDATED: Nov 17, 2021

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Things to remember...

  • The vehicles of today are smarter and safer, but thousands are still dying
  • Driver error and carelessness are offsetting the advanced safety technology available today
  • The southern portion of our country is where the most people are killed by car
  • Bicyclist and pedestrian deaths are the worst ranking factors for many states
  • For three straight years, S.C. has had the highest death rate per miles driven

Auto accidents are the leading cause of death for many different age groups in America.

Even with all the advancements in safety technology since we began this study three years ago, there has only been a one percent decrease in traffic fatalities.

In this study, we analyze the worst states for traffic-related fatalities, the lives lost in each state, and each’s best and worst categories.

This ranking of the worst drivers by state in 2020 focuses on factors like fatality rate per driver, though we will talk in some sections about how many car deaths in the United States each year by state.

The truth is, fatal crashes should be down in the United States given the technological advancements that have been made for the past couple of decades.

With vehicles today braking on their own before accidents happen, alerting the motorist of objects in their blind spots, automatically keeping themselves centered in the lane, slowing themselves down, reading road signs, and so much more . . . there is absolutely no excuse for the 40,100 people killed on U.S. roads in 2017 alone.

According to CNBC, “Experts suggest driving hazards such as texting while driving and higher speed limits are offsetting the benefits of safety systems like automatic emergency braking and increased seat belt usage.”

While the loss of lives is the most distressing part of these fatal crashes, there are other implications as well. Notably, auto insurance. Due to fatal crashes, insurance rates can spike, even if you’re not involved.

Because insurance companies often look at ZIP codes to set rates, your insurance rates might rise in an area where more fatal crashes start occurring, even if you are not involved in them.

We get that this may be confusing: Auto insurance can be difficult to understand with all the terminology and ways companies determine rates. Researching the different types of auto insurance can help.

Of course, if you are worried you’re paying too much on auto insurance, there’s a quick way to check (and to save). Enter your ZIP code into our free online quote comparison tool to compare quotes between different auto insurance companies.

The important truth is this: Far too many Americans are killed in their vehicles every day, all year. This has to change.

Complete Rankings of Worst States for Fatal Crashes Visualized

Keep in mind that the lower the number, the worse the state is doing in the category and overall:

– Traffic-Related Fatalities Category Ranking

Traffic-Related Fatalities Category Ranking (AI 2018)

– Worst States for Traffic-Related Fatalities Year Over Year

Worst States for Traffic-Related Fatalities Year Over Year (AI 2018)

Historical Trends for Fatal Crashes in the USA (AI 2018)

– Previous Rankings for this Study

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Top 10 Worst States for Traffic-Related Fatalities

We know traffic fatalities are not decreasing nearly enough, but where are drivers in the most danger? What parts of the U.S. have the most traffic deaths?

Read on to discover where most people are killed in auto accidents and how some drivers are contributing to these preventable deaths. Click here to see the full details on how we determined these results.

Check out these graphics on the worst states for traffic-related fatalities.

Do you drive in the most dangerous state for drivers in America?

#10 – Alabama

Best Ranking: Bicyclist Fatalities (49th)
Worst Ranking: Passenger Fatalities (3rd)

Ranking 14th in 2016, 16th in 2017, and now 10th in 2018, Alabama is on a steady death fall making its very first appearance on this infamous top ten list.

State leaders have gone to great lengths to “help make the communities of Alabama bicycle and pedestrian-friendly” including its “Share the Road” campaign, which is explained in the below video by the Alabama Coastal Foundation.

These efforts have resulted in “The Yellowhammer State” having a lower rate of bicycle fatalities than 94 percent of the United States!

On the other hand, passengers riding in vehicles on Alabama roads are in great danger — 215 were killed in 2016 alone. Alabama has a higher number of passenger deaths than 49 states and D.C.!

#9 – Oklahoma

Best Ranking: Bicyclist Fatalities (40th)
Worst Ranking: Driver Fatalities (4th)

Here we have our second state in-a-row where biking is the safest way to get around. For three straight years, Oklahoma’s best ranking factor has been its  bicyclist death rate — with only five killed in 2016.

Sadly though Oklahoma is not improving overall in the traffic fatality department ranking 15th in 2016 and then 9th in 2017 and remaining a top ten worst state this year.

What’s worse, is that for three consecutive years, Oklahoma has been a top ten worst state for driver deaths. With 382 drivers killed in auto accidents in 2016, “The Sooner State” is now ranked a top five worst state in this category.

As vividly illustrated in the breaking news report above, the driver (and all those on the driver side) are often in the most danger in crashes. And, driving distracted is nothing but deadly.

#8 – Texas

Best Ranking: Passenger Fatalities (19th)
Worst Ranking: Pedestrian Fatalities (8th)

With a top ten worst ranking, just 19th for its best ranking, and landing on this worst states list for the third year in-a-row, drivers in “The Lone Star State” have a lot of improvements to make.

The National Safety Council reports that Texas’ raised speed limits are partly to blame for the seven percent increase in traffic deaths from 2015 to 2017.

In fact for five years now, Texas has been home to the fastest highway (yes, legally set speed limits) in all of America:

In Texas in 2016 alone, an alarming 1,816 drivers, 708 passengers, 672 pedestrians, 490 motorcyclists, and 65 bicylists were killed in traffic accidents.

#7 – Arizona

Best Ranking: Driver Fatalities (30th)
Worst Ranking: Bicyclist Fatalities (4th)

Arizona made a drastic jump in the wrong direction from 13th to 4th place on our ranking in 2017, but at least this year it made three steps in the right direction.

The celebrations ceased once we realized how eerily similar Arizona’s worst ranking has been for three straight years. Here’s where Arizona ranked in the U.S. and how many bicyclist deaths occurred in our last three studies:

  • 2016: Worst Ranking – 3rd for Bicyclist Fatalities (29 killed)
  • 2017: Worst Ranking – 4th for Bicyclist Fatalities (28 killed)
  • 2018: Worst Ranking – 4th for Bicyclist Fatalities (31 killed)

In 2015, Tucson, Arizona was determined by NHTSA to be the second deadliest U.S. city for cyclists with 7.5 bicyclist deaths for every one million residents.

Bicyclists being hit by cars and killed (as seen in the “Breaking News” report above) is far too common in Arizona.

What’s more Arizona has been a hub for the company’s testing self-driving cars thanks to an executive order by its governor in 2015. These test vehicles have been driving the road safely but just this year a pedestrian with their bicycle was hit by one of Uber’s self-driving cars. Drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists all must use safety best practices to keep everyone safe.

#6 – Mississippi

Best Ranking: Bicyclist Fatalities (27th)
Worst Ranking (Tie): Fatalities per 100 Million Miles and Driver Fatalities (2nd)

Our 6th spot brings us to a state that has been consistently all-around deadly.

Here are all the times in the last three years Mississippi has ranked in the top five worst states:

– In our 2016 Study:

  • Fatalities per 100 Million Miles – 4th
  • Driver Fatalities – 2nd
  • Passenger Fatalities – 2nd
  • Overall Rank – 5th

– In our 2017 Study:

  • Fatalities per 100 Million Miles – 3rd
  • Driver Fatalities – 1st
  • Passenger Fatalities – 2nd
  • Overall Rank – 6th

– In our 2018 Study:

  • Fatalities per 100 Million Miles – 2nd
  • Driver Fatalities – 2nd
  • Passenger Fatalities – 4th
  • Overall Rank – 6th

It’s downright terrifying that for three straight years, Mississippi has been a top five worst state in not just one, but three categories for traffic deaths.

At least Mississippi considers the deadly driving decisions of its citizens to be a “critical issue facing the state”:

Mississippi is the only state on this dire list that has a tie for its two worst ranking factors. In 2016, 690 people were killed on Mississippi’s public roadways, and 451 of them were driving their vehicles when the deadly accident occurred.

#5 – Louisiana

Best Ranking: Driver Fatalities (18th)
Worst Ranking: Bicyclist Fatalities (3rd)

Louisiana has had regular scary death counts, especially for those walking and biking.

Here are some of LA’s death totals and ranking results from our three studies:

  • 2016 – Pedestrians: 105 (5th) Bicyclists: 13 (12th) Total Traffic Deaths: 740 (Overall 4th)
  • 2017 – Pedestrians: 106 (5th) Bicyclists: 34 (2nd) Total Traffic Deaths: 752 (Overall 2nd)
  • 2018 – Pedestrians: 127 (7th) Bicyclists: 22 (3rd) Total Traffic Deaths: 757 (Overall 5th)

It’s bad when even your best ranking factor has 17 states with better traffic death rates in that category.


Hopefully Louisiana’s “Destination Zero Deaths” campaign works (video above). Louisiana drivers have 757 lives to save this year in order to get down to zero. Our team would be thrilled to report better numbers next year.

#4 – New Mexico

Best Ranking: Bicyclist Fatalities (23rd)
Worst Ranking: Pedestrian Fatalities (1st)

The state “winning” 1st for the WORST state for traffic fatalities in 2016, is back for the third year in-a-row.

What’s shocking is that in every one of our studies, New Mexico has ranked 1st in the entire U.S. for having the most pedestrians killed on its roadways.

Fortunately, the state is reporting these findings to its residents.

For instance, the New Mexico DOT  says, “Ensuring that our pedestrians are safe is a priority for our department…we still have a lot of work to do.”

“A lot of work to do” is a major understatement with a total of 202 pedestrians killed on New Mexico roads in the last three years.

So far, it’s not looking very promising. As you can see in the above video, just three months into 2018, New Mexico already had 10 pedestrians killed including a 12-year-old girl who was crossing the road (on a crosswalk!) right outside her middle school.


#3 – Florida

Best Ranking: Driver Fatalities (26th)
Worst Ranking: Bicyclist Fatalities (1st)

Like Louisiana, Florida is a deadly place for those commuting by bike or on foot. Failure to share the road is a HUGE problem in “The Sunshine State,” and it comes with the worst consequence in life possible . . . death. 

Here are some of Florida’s death totals and ranking results from our three studies:

  • 2016 – Pedestrians: 588 (2nd) Bicyclists: 139 (2nd) Total Traffic Deaths: 2,494 (Overall 10th)
  • 2017 – Pedestrians: 629 (2nd) Bicyclists: 150 (1st) Total Traffic Deaths: 2,938 (Overall 3rd)
  • 2018 – Pedestrians: 652 (2nd) Bicyclists: 138 (1st) Total Traffic Deaths: 3,174 (Overall 3rd)

For three consecutive years, Florida has been either the worst or second worst state in the nation for having the most people killed by vehicles both while walking and while biking . . . and the death toll is on the steady rise.

ABC Action News reports the same grim findings in the above video where they list wide roads, cell phone use, and pedestrians and bikers “not following simple rules of the road” all as factors contributing to the high number of unnecessary deaths on Florida roads each year.

#2 – Kentucky

Best Ranking: Bicyclist Fatalities (20th)
Worst Ranking: Fatalities per 100 Million Miles (2nd)

Kentucky has taken huge leaps in the worst direction when it comes to traffic fatalities in the last three years. Compared to the rest of the nation, Kentucky was ranked 17th in 2016, then jumped 12 whole places to 5th in 2017, and now it’s the second most deadly state for traffic deaths.

For three straight years, Kentucky has had not just one, but as many as FOUR out of six categories in our study rank in the top ten for the worst in the nation.

– In our 2016 Study:

  • Driver Fatalities – 9th
  • Motorcycle Fatalities – 10th
  • Passenger Fatalities – 10th
  • Overall Rank – 17th

– In our 2017 Study:

  • Fatalities per 100 Million Miles – 4th
  • Driver Fatalities – 6th
  • Motorcycle Fatalities – 9th
  • Passenger Fatalities – 7th
  • Overall Rank – 5th

– In our 2018 Study:

  • Fatalities per 100 Million Miles – 2nd
  • Driver Fatalities – 3rd
  • Motorcycle Fatalities – 5th
  • Passenger Fatalities – 6th
  • Overall Rank – 2nd

The Kentucky news channels need to post some updates on the above 2014 video, which reports a drop in traffic deaths that occurred four years ago. 2014 may have been “a quiet year” for Kentucky, but those low death counts sure haven’t remained in the years to follow.

In 2014, Kentucky had 672 total traffic deaths, and just two years later there were 834 lives cut short due to deadly auto accidents in the very same state.

It’s not a good sign when a state’s best traffic death ranking falls close to the middle. 19 states in our country had lower rates of bicyclists killed than Kentucky.

#1 – South Carolina

Best Ranking: Passenger Fatalities (10th)
Worst Ranking: Fatalities per 100 Million Miles (1st)

We are disappointed to report that for the second straight year South Carolina is the worst state in the nation for having the most traffic deaths. In 2016, South Carolina was the second-worst just behind New Mexico.

Our annual study reveals some distressing details concerning South Carolina’s traffic fatality trends.

For three consecutive years, “The Palmetto State” has been ranked the worst state in America for having the most auto accident deaths for every 100 million miles driven.

Here are South Carolina’s traffic death rates, totals, and final ranking results from our three studies:

  • 2016 – Deaths per 100 Million Miles: 1.65 (1st) Total Traffic Deaths: 823 (Overall 2nd)
  • 2017 – Deaths per 100 Million Miles: 1.86 (1st) Total Traffic Deaths: 979 (Overall 1st)
  • 2018 – Deaths per 100 Million Miles: 1.86 (1st) Total Traffic Deaths: 1,015 (Overall 1st)

South Carolina needs more efforts like the “Sober or Slammer” campaign that was kicking off the night the above news clip was released in August of 2015 . . . it might have helped, but clearly, it was not enough.

The news report lists “alcohol, not wearing a seat belt, and speeding, or distracted driving” as the main causes for the spike in traffic deaths that year. All of these issues need to be tackled because these are “family members that are not gonna be here at Christmas” like Corporal Bill Rhyne of the S.C. Highway Patrol warns.

He continues: “They have to take ownership…when people are losing their life…it’s a choice. It’s a choice that’s been made by the drivers on the road.”

North vs. South: Which Region Is More Dangerous for Drivers

The above map gives a vivid illustration of where most people are killed in traffic accidents across our nation.

Six of this year’s top ten worst states are located in the Southeast, four are located in the Southwest, and all ten of 2018’s worst states for traffic deaths are located in the South.

It’s no secret that more people are dying in auto accidents in the South than anywhere else in the United States. What’s terrifying is that eight of the states with the most traffic deaths all share at least one border. Think about how many deadly miles of connected roadway there is in the South!

To put those treacherous miles in perspective for you, it takes 2,467 miles by car to get from Marco Island, Florida to Gadsden, Arizona, and that’s just taking a straight shot northwest.

Highlights & Trends

Alabama is the only state this year that hasn’t appeared on either of our previous Top 10 Worst States countdowns.

Below is a breakdown illustrating how each of the 2018 top ten states compared to the rest of the U.S. since 2016 and which geographical region it belongs to:

2018 Ten Worst StatesHistorical Rankings
#10 - Alabama (Southeast)2016: 14th
2017: 16th
2018: 10th
#9 - Oklahoma (Southwest)2016: 15th
2017: 9th
2018: 9th
#8 - Texas (Southwest)2016: 7th
2017: 7th
2018: 8th
#7 - Arizona (Southwest)2016: 13th
2017: 4th
2018: 7th
#6 - Mississippi (Southeast)2016: 5th
2017: 6th
2018: 6th
#5 - Louisiana (Southeast)2016: 4th
2017: 2nd
2018: 5th
#4 - New Mexico (Southwest)2016: 1st
2017: 7th
2018: 4th
#3 - Florida (Southeast)2016: 10th
2017: 3rd
2018: 3rd
#2 - Kentucky (Southeast)2016: 17th
2017: 5th
2018: 2nd
#1 - South Carolina (Southeast)2016: 2nd
2017: 1st
2018: 1st
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Have another look at the map above. Do you – or someone you love – live in one of the most common places to be killed by a car? Is your state making necessary improvements to help save lives on the road?

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Safety Starts with YOU

It’s easy to blame drunk drivers, lax laws, or dangerous roads . . . but just one mistake made by YOU can cost you thousands of dollars, life-long injuries, or much worse—lives cut short. You could even end up in jail for killing someone just because you decided to look down at a text message. 

Don’t think that these auto accident death stats don’t apply to you. Even if you don’t live in one of the red states above, all it takes is one deadly crash to end your life as you now know it.

“The price we are paying for mobility is 40,000 lives each year,”  said Deborah Hersman, Chief Executive for The National Safety Council.

That’s how many people are dying in traffic accidents across the U.S. each year, and every one of those deaths is 100 percent preventable. It’s just a number until one of those auto accidents ends the life of someone you love. 

Model safe driving for your family and others on the road around you. Do everything in your power to keep our roads safe and save lives.

Click here for safe driving tips to reduce insurance premiums.

Frequently Asked Questions: Safest and Most Dangerous States to Drive

Now, let’s get to your frequently asked questions about the safest and most dangerous states to drive.

#1 – What state statistically is the most dangerous to drive a car?

By our calculations and our study, which is based on government data, South Carolina is statistically the most dangerous state to drive a car.

Its worst score is in fatality rate, for which it is the worst in the country. Its best score really isn’t that much better: It is in the bottom 20 percent for passenger fatalities.

#2 – What state has the most driving fatalities?

For this study, we adjusted the driving fatalities statistic for each state into a relationship with how many drivers there are in a state. Due to this, population was taken into account when talking about driving fatalities.

In our study, South Carolina had the worst fatality rate at 1.78 per 100 vehicle miles traveled. To give a comparison, Massachusetts, the best state in this category, had a fatality rate at 0.56. Put another way, South Carolina had three times the fatality rate as the best state.

#3 – What state has the safest drivers?

In our study, the state that had the safest drivers is Minnesota. The North Star State is the only state in the top six of all categories. Its best category is careless driving, with just 44 pedestrians and bicyclists killed in 2018. It beat Massachussets by just one point in the aggregated ranking.

#4 – What city has the worst traffic in the world?

Moscow, Russia, is the city with the worst traffic in the world, ranking ahead of Istanbul, Bogota, and others. Russia is the only country with two cities in the top 10 of cities with the worst traffic in the world.

People speculate that this is due to poorly laid out cities, poorly conditioned roads, and issues with the transport industries clogging roads leading between cities and within cities.

Methodology: Discovering the 10 Worst States for Fatal Crashes

Our Worst States for Traffic Deaths ranking is based on six main categories:

  • Fatalities by 100 Million Miles Driven
  • Driver Fatalities
  • Motorcyclists Fatalities
  • Passenger Fatalities
  • Pedestrian Fatalities
  • Bicyclist Fatalities

All 50 states plus D.C. got a ranking of 1-51 for all six categories. The higher the numeric ranking, the fewer traffic deaths for that category.

Lower Numeric Rankings = More Traffic Deaths

Those individual rankings were combined to arrive at a final score. The higher the total score, the better the state did.

Higher Total Score = Less Traffic Deaths

To see how all 51 areas of the U.S. ranked in all six categories, what their final score was, and how they ranked overall for traffic deaths compared to the rest of America, see our detailed calculations.

There were three other categories in our study:

  • Fatalities by Vehicle Position
  • Chances of Being in a Fatal Auto Accident
  • Historical Data for Crashes in the U.S.

You will also find those in our detailed spreadsheet. This data further breaks down the crash reports and helps create a timeline for crash trends in our country.

Our team of researchers used the following leading sources to gather raw data regarding traffic fatalities in the most recent year the complete crash reports are available, 2016:

  • Fatality Analysis Reporting System
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • U.S. Census Bureau
  • U.S. DOT’s Federal Highway Administration

Some of the three-year-trend totals listed above might be a couple numbers off from what our previous articles state. This is because the “unknowns” get correctly categorized as soon as more details are released on the cause of the crash and position of the person upon impact.

The up-to-date totals will be found in our most recent study, which our team keeps updated according to the FARS data.

Now that you’ve finished this article, are you interested in the flip side — which states have the safest roads or the safest states for driving? If so, check out our best drivers by state study.

Dangerous roads and distracted drivers are everywhere. Never hit the road without adequate insurance coverage. We know that finding the right auto insurance that fits your individual insurance needs and is within your budget can be difficult, however.

Fortunately, we have a free quote tool that applies to many auto insurance companies at the same time so that you don’t have to go site by site and input the same information over and over. It’s the quickest and easiest way to save.

Plug your ZIP code into our tool to find auto insurance personalized for your insurance and financial needs.

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