The Most Dangerous US States To Drive In, According To Traffic Research

Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

At some point, we’ve all uttered a version of the statement “[Insert name of your city] has the worst drivers in the country!” (That sentence is usually followed by some variation of “@$%&*#%!!!”) But which areas of the United States are actually the most dangerous states to drive in? Instamotor, a mobile platform for buying used cars, analyzed traffic data from organizations like the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) to see where driving fatality rates are the worst. The results of the Instamotor research might surprise you — and make you be extra careful to buckle up the next time you get in the car.

According to traffic data, Wyoming is the most dangerous state for driving, with approximately 25.7 traffic deaths for every 100,000 residents. In contrast, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have the lowest traffic fatality rates, with 4.9 driving related deaths for every 100,000 residents. Other states that make the top 10 for safety include New York, New Jersey, Washington, and Minnesota.

Of course, there are a lot of factors that figure into traffic safety, and Instamotor’s analysis doesn’t delve into the reasons that a state like Wyoming, with its relatively small population and rural geography, would be more dangerous to drive through than a more populous, road-dense state like New York. However, it may have to do with the fact that, though it’s counter-intuitive, rural roads are more dangerous than those in the city, despite having a lot less traffic. According to NPR, in 2008, 56 percent of U.S. traffic fatalities happened in rural areas — despite the fact that these regions contain only 23 percent of the U.S. population.

Experts have offered a variety of reasons for the increased danger of rural roads. On these roads, for example, people tend to drive at higher speeds and are less likely to wear seat belts. These roads are often narrow, subject to extreme weather conditions, and sometimes have wildlife like dear and elk crossing. And when drivers on remote roads get into accidents, it may be more difficult for them to access emergency services than in urban areas.

Instamotor also looked into other factors that play a role in road fatalities, from time of day to gender. Data from the NHTSA shows that the safest day to drive is Tuesday, while Saturdays have the highest fatality rate. During the week, the most dangerous time to drive, unsurprisingly, is during rush hour, between 6 p.m. and 8:59 p.m. On the weekends, the worst period is later, between 9 p.m. and 11:59 p.m.

Stereotypes may (erroneously) say that woman are bad drivers, but men actually have a much higher chance of being killed in a traffic accident than women, according to data from the Department of Transportation. As this infographic shows, men have a higher risk of fatality on the road at every age, but men and women follow a similar arc over time: For both, the risk of fatality is high during their teen years and early 20s, lowers during middle age, and then creeps back up again as they enter old age.

To see more results, check out Instamotor’s full analysis.

Images: Joe Raedle/Getty Images; Infographics courtesy of Instamotor.