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These 10 States Have America’s Worst Drivers

Separate study ID’s country’s worst highway bottlenecks.

by on Nov.27, 2015

Highway fatalities have been rising fast, especially in some of the states on this list.

If you’re one of the 43 million American motorists expected to drive at least 50 miles this holiday weekend – indeed if you’re expecting to travel at all anytime soon – you might want to keep the results of a new study in mind.

It ranks the 10 states with the nation’s worst drivers, and based on federal highway statistics, and in the dubious lead is Montana which “finished among the top 20 in every category, ranging from 20th in Speeding to 1st in Fatality Rate,” noted Tyler Spraul, who oversaw the study for CarInsurance Comparison.com.

For the Record!

A separate study, also released in time for the Thanksgiving Highway looked at America’s 50 worst highway bottlenecks, and found a few surprises. While Los Angeles is, as expected, one of the worst places for drivers hoping to make time, Chicago had the single-worst bottleneck in the country, according to the American Highway Users Alliance.

The two studies aren’t entirely a case of apples-and-oranges, as poor road design and overcrowding often lead to crashes and highway fatalities.

That said, the worst drivers in America are largely based in rural states with relatively few heavily populated urban areas. That includes New Mexico and South Carolina, tied for second, and North Dakota and Hawaii, tied for seventh. The notable exception is Delaware, ranked ninth which, while, small, is a central hub for traffic traveling along – or heading to – the East Coast.

The states with America's worst drivers - Montana in red, the rest of the top 10 in dark blue.

Texas, meanwhile, in fourth place, has huge, wide opens spaces and a handful of densely populated urbans like Dallas and Houston.

(More trouble for Tesla as company recalls every Model S ever made. Click Here for more.)

Why is Montana ranked the worst? Several factors, according to Spraul. For one thing, it has what he describes as a “deadly combination” of high speed limits and severe weather. That can be a recipe for increased fatalities, especially when those cold winds begin to blow.

A variety of different factors come across as common to the 10 worst states, including drunk driving, which helped push both New Mexico and South Carolina into a tie for the second spot on the list. Texas also had one of the worst records in the country when it came to drunk driving fatalities.

Careless driving is another factor that appears to bind these 10 deadly states. It’s not clear how much of that can be blamed on distracted driving – texting while driving, in particular – but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that’s an issue in more than one of every 10 highway deaths in the U.S.

And roadway fatalities are on the rise again after a decade of decline, NHTSA reported this week, with an 8.1% year-over-year increase compared to the first half of 2014.

“It really is time for our nation to get serious about the epidemic of death that is on our roadways,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said on Tuesday.

(Traffic deaths rising again. Click Here for the story.)

The CarInsuranceComparison study was based on five key categories:

  • Fatalities Rate per 100 Million Vehicle Miles Traveled
  • Failure to Obey (Percentage of Fatal Crashes that involved Traffic Signals, Not Wearing Seat Belts, and Driving with an Invalid Driver’s License)
  • Drunk Driving (Percentage of Fatal Crashes that Involved Alcohol)
  • Speeding (Percentage of Driving Fatalities that were Speed-Related)
  • Careless Driving (Pedestrian & Bicyclist Fatalities per 100,000 Population)

Montana, South Carolina and New Mexico tied for second, Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, Hawaii and North Dakota tied for seventh, Delaware, and Mississippi.

While most of those states have relatively open roads, two also land among the list of states with some of the country’s worst highway bottlenecks. Traffic congestion up and down the Eastern Seaboard is notoriously bad, but Texas also has six on the top 50 list, according to the Highway Users group, three of them in Houston and another three in Austin.

The worst chokepoint in the country is at the intersection of three interstates in Chicago, I-90, I-94 and I-290. At its worst, the backups can stretch for 12 miles, according to the study which says it costs 16.9 million hours of lost time each year.

Nationwide, the American Highway Users Alliance estimates that fixing just the top 30 bottlenecks would save over the next two decades $39 billion due to lost time, 830 million gallons of fuel, and 17 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. It also estimates it would prevent 211,000 crashes – which might help some states slip off the list of America’s worst drivers.

(Traffic accidents spike up to 34% over Thanksgiving holiday. Click Here for the story.)

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