Terrible drivers exist everywhere — and don’t get us started on teen drivers — but some states harbor the worst among them.
Whether it’s texting while driving or switching lanes without using a blinker, another person’s bad driving could put a real damper on your road experience — and that’s the best-case scenario. Often, negligent driving can lead to serious accidents that cause critical injuries, if not worse.
But where do the worst drivers live? To find out, personal finance site SmartAsset decided to crunch some numbers using recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the FBI, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Insurance Research Council and Google Trends.
The site looked at four metrics to determine which states fall into the top 10 for bad driving: The percent of insured drivers; the rate of DUI arrests; the average number of auto fatalities; and how often people search terms like “speeding ticket” or “traffic ticket.”
SmartAsset’s findings are illuminating, to say the least. Here’s a look at the 10 states with the worst drivers:
9. Arizona (Tie)
Arizona ranked number 12 on SmartAsset’s 2017 list of states with the worst drivers but moved up to the ninth spot, in a tie with Alaska, for 2018. Two metrics could explain Arizona’s rise: Auto deaths and insurance coverage rates. A little over 89 percent of drivers in the state were insured in 2016, but that rate dropped to 88 percent the next year. Also, in 2016, Arizona only saw 1.46 fatalities by 100 million miles driven in the state — up from 1.37 deaths per 100 million miles in 2015, according to SmartAsset’s analysis. The state’s auto fatality rate, though, is falling overall; it has dropped by 37 percent since 1994.
9. Alaska (Tie)
Although Alaska ranks near the bottom of the list, the state would have taken the top spot if the study relied only on two metrics: DUI rate and fatality rate. According to SmartAsset, Alaska has the fourth-highest number of fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles driven and sixth-highest number of DUI arrests per 1,000 drivers. But the Last Frontier does have a low search volume for traffic offenses and parking tickets.
Florida saw a big change between SmartAsset’s 2017 and 2018 rankings. Last year, the Sunshine State took the top spot, but this year, it fell to No. 8. That could be because Florida saw improvements in both its DUI and auto fatality rates. In 2016, the state had 2.17 DUI arrests per 1,000 drivers, down from 2.23, and 1.42 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles driven, down from 1.47, according to SmartAsset. But the Sunshine State did see an increase in the number of insured drivers, from 76.2 percent in 2016 to 73.3 percent in 2017.
Up two spots from last year’s list, Alabama ranks in the top 10 on two metrics: auto fatalities and searches for traffic offenses. In 2016, Alabama saw 1.50 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled — a significant increase from the year before, according to SmartAsset’s analysis. Alabama had the fourth-highest rate of people Googling traffic offenses, which SmartAsset suggests could indicate a large number of drivers running afoul of the law. But the state did see a drop in DUI arrests, from 2.01 to 1.99 per 1,000 drivers.
Texas didn’t see much of a change in ranking between SmartAsset’s 2017 and 2018 lists. This year, the Lone Star State tied with New Mexico for fifth place. The number of DUI arrests has remained the same — 4.09 per 1,000 drivers. But Texas did see a drop in the rate of insured drivers, from 86.7 percent to 85.9 percent, according to SmartAsset’s findings. The state also saw a small increase in auto deaths, from 1.36 to 1.39 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled. As for people Googling traffic offenses in the state, Texas came in ninth.
5. New Mexico
Out of all the states on this list, New Mexico saw the most drastic change in ranking. The Land of Enchantment landed in the 17th spot on the 2017 list but skyrocketed this year to fifth place. That could be because New Mexico saw a significant uptick in the rate of auto fatalities. In 2015, the state had 1.09 deaths per 100 million miles driven; in 2016, that number jumped to 1.44. New Mexico still has a high number of DUI arrests (5.61 per 1,000 drivers) and low rate of insured drivers (only 79.2 percent).
Missouri is another state that saw a significant change between SmartAsset’s 2017 and 2018 lists — but in the opposite direction of Florida. Last year, the Show Me State just missed the top 10, but this year, it tied with California for third place. The rate of drivers insured dropped from 86.5 percent to 86 percent, and the number of auto deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in the state jumped from 1.21 to 1.28, according to the site’s analysis of NHTSA data. But Missouri did see a drop in DUI arrests, from 4.62 per 1,000 drivers to 4.58.
California ranked No. 8 on last year’s list but jumped to the No. 3 spot for 2018. Although the Golden State has a relatively low auto death rate, the number of fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles driven did increase from 0.95 to 1.07. The rate of drivers insured in the state also dropped, from 85.3 percent to 84.8 percent. On the positive side, California did see a decrease in the rate of DUI arrests, from 5.54 per 1,000 drivers to 5.40.
Tennessee jumped two spots to take second on this year’s ranking. The state has the fifth highest number of drivers who are uninsured, with only 80 percent of people covered. It also has high DUI rates, with 4.45 DUI arrests for every 1,000 drivers, and high auto death rates, with 1.35 fatalities per 100 million miles driven, according to SmartAsset. In fact, Tennessee found itself in the top 20 for every metric, but its lack of top 10 scores kept it from landing in first place.
Ranked second last year, Mississippi now takes the dubious top spot on SmartAsset’s 2018 list of states with the worst drivers. According to the site, roughly 1.7 people die for every 100 million miles driven in the state — the second-highest number of fatalities on the road in 2016. Mississippi also has low coverage rates, with only 76.3 percent of drivers insured, and a high number of drivers who skirt the law, according to SmartAsset’s analysis.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for safe harbor in a sea of bad drivers, there’s some good news in an annual report from Allstate. Florida, Texas and Alabama all ranked high on the SmartAsset list of worst drivers, but certain cities in these states also ranked high on Allstate’s list of the cities with the best drivers.
Good to know!