Which States Have the Worst Drivers in 2023?
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We all know what bad driving looks like — speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, tailgating and texting while driving. Beyond endangering everyone around them, bad drivers contribute to costly vehicle repairs, medical bills and even fatalities. But which state is the absolute worst when it comes to bad drivers?
SmartFinancial analyzed the number of DUI arrests, traffic fatalities and percentage of uninsured drivers in each state to find out.
Best and Worst Drivers in America by State
To rank the best and worst drivers in the U.S. by state, SmartFinancial considered safety and post-accident financial liability using the following metrics:
- Number of DUI arrests per 100,000 drivers
- Frequency of traffic fatalities per 100 million miles
- Percentage of uninsured drivers
|State||DUI Arrests Per 100,000 Drivers||Traffic Fatalities Per 100 Million Miles||Percentage of Uninsured Drivers||Rank (1=worst)|
Worst Drivers by State
You best buckle your seatbelt and have good car insurance because coming up are the five states with the worst drivers in the U.S.
Kentucky comes in number one as the WORST state for drivers. Although Kentucky is not the worst in every individual category, Kentucky had the worst score overall. The Bluegrass State had 15,570 DUI arrests and 632 traffic deaths total in 2019. While not the highest among the states, 13.9% of Kentucky drivers were uninsured — up from 11.5% in 2017.
Coming in at second place for the state with the worst drivers is Mississippi. Mississippi ranked moderately for DUI arrests with 5,269 for DUI arrests in 2019. The Magnolia State, however, had 643 traffic fatalities, ranking second-highest for traffic fatalities per capita. And if you get into a car accident, there's a high chance your uninsured motorist coverage will kick in — a whopping 29.4% of Mississippi drivers are uninsured.
#3 New Mexico
New Mexico had 4,190 DUI arrests, ranking just 32nd highest per capita in 2019. However, the results for traffic deaths and uninsured drivers in the Land of Enchantment were anything but enchanting. New Mexico had 424 traffic fatalities total and 21.8% of drivers were uninsured in 2019 — ranking third and fourth place in those categories respectively.
Wyoming had 3,181 DUI arrests in 2019 and ranked third highest per capita. There were 147 traffic deaths in 2019, the fifth-worst per capita. Clearly, these two categories brought down Wyoming's overall score because the Cowboy State ranks among the top five best states in the percentage of uninsured drivers category — just 5.8% in 2019.
Oklahoma had 9,053 DUI arrests total but still managed to rank just 23rd per capita in this category. With just 13.4% of drivers uninsured, the Sooner State also ranked below average in this category. While Oklahoma didn't score horrendously for DUI arrests and percentage of uninsured drivers, its traffic fatalities (640 total in 2019) lowered its overall rank to among the five worst.
Best Drivers by State
If you live in any of the states below, you can let out a sigh of relief — these states are among the five states with the best drivers.
The top spot for the state with the best drivers goes to Massachusetts. Massachusetts had 334 traffic deaths in 2019, also ranking the best per capita in this category. We counted 9,426 DUI arrests in Massachusetts — not the lowest, but still among the 10 best states. In addition, 3.5% of drivers were uninsured in 2019, a 44% improvement from 6.2% in 2017.
#2 New York
With New York's bustling traffic and fast-paced culture, we're just as surprised as you that it made the second-best state with the best drivers. New York had a whopping 25,059 DUI arrests but still ranked only 39th for the most arrests per capita. There were 931 traffic fatalities and only 4.1% of drivers were uninsured, improving from 6.1% in 2017.
#3 New Jersey
In third place is New Jersey. New Jersey had 559 traffic fatalities in 2019 and ranked fourth-best in this category. The Garden State made 21,112 DUI arrests, ranking 29th per capita. New Jersey experienced a notable improvement in the percentage of uninsured drivers — 3.1% in 2019 from 14.9% in 2017.
Utah ranked in the best 10 for two out of three categories. At 248 traffic fatalities, Utah was among the best states for traffic fatalities per capita. In 2019, only 6.5% of drivers were uninsured. The Beehive State ranked above average (36th place) for the highest number of DUI arrests, with 5,082 arrests in 2019.
The Constitution State ranked above average for DUI arrests and among the best for traffic fatalities and percentage of uninsured drivers in 2019. Connecticut made 7,577 DUI arrests, ranking 31st for the highest number of arrests per capita. There were 249 traffic fatalities and 6.3% of drivers were uninsured in 2019, improving from 9.4% in 2017.
Of the 10 states with the worst drivers, four of them were located in the southeast region: Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Florida. Two states were southwestern (New Mexico and Oklahoma) and another two were western states (Idaho and Montana). Wyoming was the only state in the midwest that ranked among the 10 worst.
Of the 10 states with the best drivers, the states were overwhelmingly concentrated (70%) in the northeast region: Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Two of the 10 best were midwestern states (Illinois and Ohio) and finally, Utah was located in the Western region.
Worst Drivers vs. Rudest Drivers
In 2021, YouGov America asked 77,005 US adults, "Do you think that people in your state tend to be more rude or more polite than most Americans?" Here's how the rudest states stack up against the worst states:
This data suggests that rude driving doesn't necessarily mean high-risk or reckless driving — and that's good! While a rude driver can certainly be an annoyance on your morning commute, it's far more preferable than a driver more likely to drive impaired and cause a fatal crash or a driver who can't cover your repair bills when they're at fault in an accident.
What Types of Driving Behaviors Increase Risks While on the Road?
Driving is a privilege, not a right. When you're behind the wheel, you're responsible for the lives of yourself, your passengers and other drivers on the road. Below are some dangerous driving behaviors to avoid.
In 2019, speeding killed 9,478 people. Among the most common traffic violations, speeding can easily lead to loss of control of the vehicle and increase the severity of a collision. Add weaving in and out of traffic and you're a hazard to all drivers around you.
Driving While Impaired
10,412 deaths in 2019 can be attributed to drunk driving — nearly 10% more than speeding-related deaths. California had the highest number of DUI arrests total (120,262) and North Dakota had the highest per capita (868).
Alcohol and drugs can impair your reasoning abilities and muscle coordination. Bottom line: Don't drink and drive. Just call a taxi or rideshare service.
Driving While Distracted
There were 3,142 distracted driving crashes, accounting for 8.7% of all fatalities in 2019. Texting, specifically, can be especially hazardous. Taking your eyes off the road for five seconds while driving 55 mph is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Driving While Drowsy
There were 697 drowsy-driving-related crashes in 2019. These accidents often occur between midnight and 6 a.m. If you're not feeling alert, do your best to avoid driving.
Driving Without a Seat belt
Research and data have already shown how seat belts can save lives. In 2017, seatbelts saved 14,955 lives for drivers and passengers ages five years and older. While seatbelts do little for how other people drive, they can protect you during unavoidable car accidents.
To determine the best and worst drivers by state, we ranked each state from 1 to 50 against the following weighted metrics:
- Traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles (50%): Data collected from Traffic Safety Facts 2019 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Licensed Total Drivers, 2019 by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA).
- Number of DUI arrests per 100,000 licensed drivers (30%): Data collected from Arrests by State, 2019 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Highway Statistics 2019 by the FHA.
- Percentage of uninsured drivers (10%): Data collected from the estimated percentage of uninsured drivers in 2019 by the Insurance Research Council.
Next, we multiplied each rank against the weighted amount per category. The sum of all three ranks produced a weighted rank, with the lowest number indicating the state with the worst drivers and the highest number for the state with the best drivers.