The most dangerous (and safest) states for drivers; Where does Wisconsin stand?

If you’ve ever taken a cross-country roadtrip, you probably noticed — in addition to changes in scenery — differences in road conditions, traffic laws, driving behaviors, and vehicle choice when moving from state to state. Perhaps less obvious, though, is that these differences make certain states far more dangerous (or more safe) than others when it comes to driving.

To evaluate road safety across the U.S., auto insurance comparison site AutoInsurance.org analyzed the most recent NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data. Using this data, its researchers computed certain safety indicators for every state. Below is a heatmap showing road fatalities per 100,000 by state.

The data highlights one obvious trend — the more rural the state, the more dangerous the roads (generally). While city driving can be intimidating — with their busy intersections, high densities of pedestrians, and difficult parking among other challenges — urban roads are actually far safer.

In 2016, for example, the total number of deaths that occurred as a result of accidents on rural roads actually exceeded that which occurred on urban roads (18,590 vs. 17,656) despite rural roads being far less traveled. When adjusting these numbers for traffic volume differences, the disparity is striking. The fatality rate per vehicle mile driven is almost three time higher on rural roads than urban ones, according to AutoInsurance.org research. Not surprisingly, as the percent of miles driven on rural roads increases (for each state), so does the fatality rate.

So, next time you’re behind the wheel, keep these statistics in mind. While driving in rural areas might seem safer, the data shows otherwise. The below list, ordered from safest to most dangerous, shows how all 50 states and the District of Columbia stack up in terms of road safety.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

51. District of Columbia

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 4.1
  • Total fatal crashes: 26
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 39%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 4%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 0%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

50. Rhode Island

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 4.8
  • Total fatal crashes: 48
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 38%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 6%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 11%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

49. New York

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 5.2
  • Total fatal crashes: 965
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 17%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 13%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 16%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

48. Massachusetts

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 5.8
  • Total fatal crashes: 359
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 29%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 11%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 4%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

47. New Jersey

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 6.7
  • Total fatal crashes: 569
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 22%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 33%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 5%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

46. Minnesota

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 7.2
  • Total fatal crashes: 357
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 28%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 8%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 38%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

45. Washington

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 7.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 504
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 32%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 25%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 24%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

44. Connecticut

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 8.2
  • Total fatal crashes: 281
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 30%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 5%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 6%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

43. Illinois

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 8.4
  • Total fatal crashes: 1,003
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 26%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 5%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 21%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

42. Hawaii

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 8.5
  • Total fatal crashes: 109
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 25%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 17%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 7%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

41. Maryland

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 8.5
  • Total fatal crashes: 472
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 24%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 6%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 12%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

40. Virginia

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 9.2
  • Total fatal crashes: 722
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 29%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 20%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 32%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

39. Pennsylvania

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 9.3
  • Total fatal crashes: 1,088
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 24%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 6%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 30%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

38. California

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 9.4
  • Total fatal crashes: 3,357
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 23%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 5%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 14%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

37. Utah

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 9.5
  • Total fatal crashes: 259
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 20%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 7%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 29%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

36. Ohio

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 9.8
  • Total fatal crashes: 1,053
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 34%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 6%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 25%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

35. Vermont

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 9.9
  • Total fatal crashes: 57
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 47%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 5%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 66%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

34. New Hampshire

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 10.2
  • Total fatal crashes: 130
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 30%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 4%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 34%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

33. Wisconsin

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 10.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 544
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 32%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 18%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 42%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

32. Michigan

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 10.7
  • Total fatal crashes: 980
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 25%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 6%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 22%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

31. Colorado

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 11.3
  • Total fatal crashes: 558
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 34%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 12%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 28%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

30. Alaska

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 11.4
  • Total fatal crashes: 78
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 45%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 1%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 41%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

29. Nebraska

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 11.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 194
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 39%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 7%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 57%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

28. Nevada

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 11.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 303
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 30%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 3%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 29%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

27. Maine

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 12.1
  • Total fatal crashes: 151
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 31%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 2%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 64%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

26. Oregon

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 12.4
  • Total fatal crashes: 446
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 27%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 2%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 39%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

25. Indiana

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 12.5
  • Total fatal crashes: 768
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 18%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 5%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 38%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

24. Delaware

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 12.7
  • Total fatal crashes: 116
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 31%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 14%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 26%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

23. Iowa

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 13.0
  • Total fatal crashes: 356
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 26%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 9%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 61%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

22. South Dakota

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 13.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 103
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 42%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 9%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 77%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

21. Texas

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 14.0
  • Total fatal crashes: 3,407
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 25%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 11%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 24%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

20. Arizona

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 14.3
  • Total fatal crashes: 865
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 23%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 6%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 32%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

19. North Carolina

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 14.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 1,348
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 28%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 12%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 28%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

18. West Virginia

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 14.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 250
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 28%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 2%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 44%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

17. Kansas

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 14.8
  • Total fatal crashes: 381
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 21%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 25%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 52%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

16. Georgia

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 15.4
  • Total fatal crashes: 1,422
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 22%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 5%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 25%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

15. North Dakota

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 15.4
  • Total fatal crashes: 102
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 48%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 11%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 73%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

14. Idaho

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 15.5
  • Total fatal crashes: 232
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 28%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 21%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 57%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

13. Missouri

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 15.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 868
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 28%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 9%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 37%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

12. Florida

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 15.9
  • Total fatal crashes: 2,933
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 21%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 8%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 19%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

11. Tennessee

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 15.9
  • Total fatal crashes: 966
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 23%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 13%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 30%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

10. Louisiana

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 16.3
  • Total fatal crashes: 704
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 30%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 19%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 33%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

9. Oklahoma

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 17.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 624
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 28%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 8%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 45%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

8. Arkansas

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 18.4
  • Total fatal crashes: 488
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 23%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 5%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 45%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

7. Montana

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 18.6
  • Total fatal crashes: 171
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 48%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 9%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 75%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

6. Kentucky

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 18.9
  • Total fatal crashes: 763
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 25%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 25%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 52%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

5. Wyoming

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 19.2
  • Total fatal crashes: 100
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 29%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 15%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 76%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

4. New Mexico

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 19.3
  • Total fatal crashes: 358
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 29%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 40%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 54%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

3. South Carolina

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 21.0
  • Total fatal crashes: 936
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 36%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 5%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 43%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

2. Alabama

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 21.4
  • Total fatal crashes: 937
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 15%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 5%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 38%

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

1. Mississippi

  • Road fatalities per 100,000: 23.1
  • Total fatal crashes: 628
  • % of crashes involving alcohol: 16%
  • % of crashes involving a distracted driver: 0%
  • % of miles driven on rural roads: 50%

Methodology

AutoInsurance.org analyzed vehicle accident data from the NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The NHTSA FARS data only includes accidents that resulted in a fatality. State population data was obtained from the American Community Survey 2012-2016 5-Year Estimates. Annual vehicle miles driven by state and road type were obtained from the Federal Highway Administration Office of Highway Policy Information.
All data used is from 2016, the most recent available.

  • Using this data, summary statistics for each state were determined.
  • States were then ordered based on road fatalities per 100,000 people.
  • The percent of crashes involving alcohol is the percent of fatal crashes in which one or more of the drivers involved had a positive BAC, or if the police reported alcohol involvement for the accident.
  • The percent of crashes involving a distracted driver is the percent of fatal crashes in which one or more of the drivers involved was reported to have been distracted prior to realization of the impending accident, or prior to impact if realization of the impending accident did not occur.

The NHTSA defines distracted driving as diversion of attention from the driving task to some other activity. Driving while daydreaming or lost in thought is considered distracted driving. Physical conditions/impairments (fatigue, alcohol, medical condition, etc.) or psychological states (anger, emotional, depressed, etc.) are not.