Watch out when you see these plates: America’s worst drivers
A car crash with two vehicles driving into each other on a street.
On any road, you will likely encounter your fair share of good and bad drivers. From distracted driving to driving under the influence, there are a variety of ways that our driving can quickly go from good to bad. But bad driving isn’t just frustrating — it can also have deadly consequences. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 42,795 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2022 alone.
While bad drivers span the U.S., some states have safer drivers than others. Utilizing data from the NHTSA, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and other sources, MoneyGeek ranked the safest and most dangerous drivers in the U.S. with an overall driver score calculated from factors in the categories of safe driving habits (observed safety belt use, distracted driving fatalities and unrestrained fatalities), safe driving choices (DUI fatalities, speeding fatalities and DUI arrests) and percentage of drivers with auto insurance. Here’s what we found.
- Montana has the worst drivers in the country. Although most drivers in the state have car insurance coverage, the state ranked poorly for safe driving habits.
- New Mexico and South Carolina have the second and third-worst drivers overall, with the former receiving the lowest Safe Driving Habits score and the latter receiving the lowest Safe Driving Choices score in the country.
- Mississippi has the highest percentage of uninsured drivers (30%) of any state.
- New Jersey is home to the U.S.’s best drivers, receiving the highest score for Safe Driving Choices and having the highest percentage of drivers with insurance (96.9%). The state also has an above-average Safe Driving Habits score.
- Minnesota has the highest score for Safe Driving Habits, meaning it has lower rates of unrestrained and distracted driving fatalities and higher rates of seatbelt use.
States With the Safest Drivers in the US
U.S. heatmap showing the states with the safest and most dangerous drivers.
There are a variety of ways to rank good driving. In this analysis, MoneyGeek’s top picks for the states with the safest drivers typically have lower rates of fatalities related to driving under the influence, driving while distracted, and speeding, higher rates of seat belt usage and higher percentages of insured motorists.
For example, New Jersey — ranked No.1 on our list — also received the highest Safe Driving Choices Score (indicating it has the lowest rates of DUI and speeding fatalities and DUI arrests) and had the highest percentage of insured motorists in the country (96.9%). Despite this good news, New Jersey’s auto insurance rates are among the nation’s highest. New York — ranked No.5 on our list — received the highest Safe Driving Habits Score, meaning the state has low rates of driving fatalities related to distracted driving or not wearing a seatbelt and high rates of seat belt use.
States With the Most Dangerous Drivers in the US
In MoneyGeek’s analysis, the states we ranked as having the worst drivers have higher rates of fatalities related to driving under the influence, driving while distracted, and speeding, lower rates of seat belt usage and lower percentages of insured motorists — all factors that make roads more dangerous and put other drivers at risk.
1. Montana: 34.4
2. New Mexico: 37.2
3. South Carolina: 38.1
4. Louisiana: 51.2
5. South Dakota 52.3
6. Texas: 54.4
7. Arkansas: 55.8
8. Mississippi: 56.6
9. Idaho: 57.6
10. Oklahoma: 58.3
Additional Findings: State Rankings for Miles Driven, DUI Arrest Rates, Seatbelt Usage and Uninsured Driver Rates
Determining whether someone is a good or bad driver requires looking beyond fatalities at the larger picture. By examining a variety of metrics and insights — including miles traveled, DUI arrest rates, seatbelt usage rates and rates of uninsured drivers — an overall view of driver habits and road safety for each state begins to emerge.
States Where People Drive the Most and Least Miles
People who drive a lot aren’t necessarily better drivers. Statistically speaking, the more miles a person drives, the more likely they are to get in an accident. In fact, men tend to drive more miles than women, and men are also involved in more fatal accidents. All of MoneyGeek’s metrics are based on vehicle miles to account for differences in miles per person and are calculated based on miles driven in 2021 in each state.
Most Miles Traveled Per Capita
1. Wyoming: 19,171
2. Alabama: 15,788
3. Mississippi: 13,849
4. Missouri: 12,936
5. Arkansas: 12,699
Fewest Miles Traveled Per Capita
1. New York: 5,388
2. Rhode Island: 6,870
3. Hawaii: 6,918
4. Washington: 7,469
5. Illinois: 7,697
States With the Highest and Lowest DUI Arrest Rates
When you drive while impaired, not only are you putting yourself at risk, but everyone else on the road as well. In 2021, accidents involving drunk driving accounted for 31% of driving fatalities. Even when drunk driving doesn’t lead to a crash, it brings a host of other problems worth avoiding. A DUI usually results in having your license revoked and being charged significantly more for your insurance premiums. With ridesharing options widely available, it’s never been easier to prevent a DUI.
Highest DUI Arrest Rate (per Vehicle Miles Traveled)
1. South Dakota: 615
2. North Dakota: 434
3. Nevada: 407
4. Rhode Island: 372
5. Idaho: 363
Lowest DUI Arrest Rate (per Vehicle Miles Traveled)
1. Florida: 0.14
2. Alabama: 4
3. Pennsylvania: 11
4. California: 16
5. New Jersey: 23
States With the Highest and Lowest Rates of Seatbelt Usage
It’s estimated that seat belts saved 374,276 lives from 1975 to 2017. Most drivers understand the value of buckling up, demonstrated by the fact that the national use rate of seat belts was 91.6% in 2022. Whether you’re behind the wheel or riding as a passenger, the small act of using a safety belt can save your life in an accident.
Highest Rate of Seatbelt Usage
1. California: 97.2%
2. Oregon: 94.9%
3. Georgia: 94.8%
4. Hawaii: 94.3%
5. Washington: 94.2%
Lowest Rate of Seatbelt Usage
1. New Hampshire: 75.5%
2. Massachusetts: 77.5%
3. Mississippi: 80.0%
4. Wyoming: 80.2%
5. Nebraska: 81.2%
States With the Highest and Lowest Rates of Insured Drivers
Getting in an accident with an uninsured motorist can be a headache for everyone involved. Ultimately, you’ll be responsible for damage to your car if the person you’ve collided with doesn’t have protection. By securing an affordable car insurance policy, you can have peace of mind knowing you’re financially protected in the event of an accident, regardless of if you live in the state with the most or fewest insured drivers.
Highest Percentage of Insured Drivers
1. New Jersey: 96.9%
2. Massachusetts: 96.5%
3. New York: 95.9%
4. Maine: 95.1%
5. Wyoming: 94.2%
Lowest Percentage of Insured Drivers
1. Mississippi: 70.6%
2. Michigan: 74.5%
3. Tennessee: 76.3%
4. New Mexico: 78.2%
5. Washington: 78.3%
Methodology and Full Data Set
To rank the states with the best and the worst drivers in the U.S., MoneyGeek analyzed data from a variety of sources, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Federal Highway Administration, FBI and Insurance Research Council. We utilized seven key driving statistics to create our state ranking and calculate each state’s Best Driver score.
- Rates of DUI arrests and DUI-related driving fatalities
- Speeding fatalities
- Restraint use (also known as safety belt use)
- Distracted driving fatalities
- Insured driver rates
- State population
- Vehicle miles traveled
We grouped these metrics into three ranking factors: Safe Habits, Safe Choices, and Percent of Drivers with Insurance.
Safe Habits: By examining distracted driving and unrestrained fatalities, this ranking reflects safe-driving practices such as avoiding distracted driving and using seat belts.
Safe Choices: Using DUI fatalities, DUI arrests and speeding fatalities, this ranking reflects the overall rate of safe choices drivers make on the road.
Percentage of Drivers with Insurance: A good driver is a responsible driver. This ranking looked at the number of drivers who have adequate car insurance. This information is important not only to gauge driver responsibility but also for third-party drivers who may get in an accident with an uninsured motorist.
Ranking Data and Their Weights
Each data point is weighted on key aspects of being a good driver. That’s why certain states, like New Jersey, may not rank No.1 in all three subrankings, but they still come out as the overall state with the safest drivers. New Jersey ranked highest in safe choices, which holds an overall higher importance than safe driving habits.
Safe Habits: 35% weight overall
- Percent of Observed Safety Belt Use by All Drivers (2021) — 20%
- Unrestrained Fatality Rate (per 1 Billion Miles Traveled) — 10%
- Distracted Driving Fatality Rate (per 1 Billion Miles Traveled) — 5%
Safe Choices: 55% weight overall
- 2021 DUI Fatality Rate per 1 Billion Miles Traveled — 25%
- 2021 DUI Arrests per Miles Traveled — 5%
- 2021 Speeding Fatality Rate (per Billion Miles) — 25%
Percentage of Insured Drivers
- Estimated Percentage of Uninsured Drivers — 10%