Worst Drivers by State [2024]: Where are the Worst Drivers?

From accidents to speeding tickets, how you drive can determine if you get to your destination safely. So which state has the worst drivers?

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Updated May 13, 2024
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Depending on where you live, you might regularly see other drivers texting and driving, speeding, and even driving while impaired, which can make getting behind the wheel feel extra nerve-wracking.

While there are good and bad drivers in any state, some states have a higher likelihood of problematic behavior. Let’s check out some statistics about the worst drivers in America.

In this article

Key takeaways

  • Utah ranks first as the state with the worst drivers, followed by California and Iowa.
  • 3,522 drivers in the U.S. were killed by distracted driving, which includes texting or talking on the phone.
  • Between 2020 and 2021, the vehicle death rate increased by 8.5%, while the mileage death rate increased by 2.7%. The mileage death rate compares traffic fatalities to vehicle miles traveled.
  • In 2022, an estimated 42,795 people died in traffic crashes.
  • Montana and Rhode Island tie for the highest percentage (70%) of deaths in single-vehicle crashes.
  • Delaware has the highest percentage (53%) of deaths in multiple-vehicle crashes.

Utah has the worst drivers

In 2022, Utah had the worst drivers, according to a survey conducted by Quote Wizard, which looked at the number of DUI charges, traffic citations, and accidents in every state. Utah drivers ranked first in speeding, second in traffic tickets, fifth in accidents, and eighth in DUIs among all fifty states.

California, while second on the overall list, was first in the number of DUIs issued in 2022, third in accidents, seventh in speeding tickets, and 13th in traffic citations.

Source: Quote Wizard

Tip
Learn more about the cost of bad driving in every state in our recent study.

Iowa drops to third on the list of worst drivers

Iowa was ranked as having the worst drivers in the nation by Quote Wizard in 2021 but fell into third place in 2022. In 2022, Iowa was fourth in traffic citations and ninth for speeding tickets. The state came in second and fifth, respectively, in those categories in the 2021 survey.

Comparatively, numbers four and five on the list, Wisconsin and Ohio, saw increases in unsafe driving from 2021 to 2022. Wisconsin ranked 10th in 2021 and 17th in 2020 on the overall list, while Ohio jumped from 17th in 2021 to 5th in 2022 and was 4th in speeding, 8th in accidents, and 15th in DUIs.

Source: Quote Wizard

California is one of the most expensive states for car insurance and has some of the worst drivers

On average, drivers in California pay about $2,115 a year in car insurance, according to insurance marketplace Insure.com, some of the highest rates in the country. California insurance premiums in 2022 were 26% ($433) more than the national average and 6% more than Californians paid in 2019.

California came in second on Quote Wizard’s list of states with the worst drivers in 2022, which may explain at least in part why insurance premiums are so much higher.

Source: Insure.com, Quote Wizard

Connecticut has the safest drivers

Drivers in Connecticut came in 50th (last place) in the number of traffic citations and DUIs received in 2022 and 49th in speeding tickets, according to Quote Wizard’s list.

Michigan came in second place, up from eighth in 2021. The Great Lakes state came in 50th in accidents, 45th in citations, and 40th in speeding tickets and DUIs. West Virginia, Delaware, and Arkansas completed the top five list of best drivers.

Source: Quote Wizard

Places with the highest annual mileage don’t necessarily have better drivers

According to a 2022 study by The Zebra, drivers who live in Western and Southern states are more likely to drive everywhere they need to go, likely due to a lack of public transportation options. Wyoming residents drive the most, with 24,069 miles driven annually, followed by Mississippi at 19,966 miles a year and New Mexico at 19,157 miles.

Wyoming came in 14th on Quote Wizard’s 2022 list of worst drivers by state. However, Mississippi was 12th and New Mexico 17th on the list of best drivers by state.

Source: The Zebra, Quote Wizard

South Carolina has the most at-fault accidents

According to the insurance comparison website Insurify, South Carolina took the top spot for most at-fault accidents in 2022. 12% of drivers in South Carolina had at-fault accidents on their records, which is 37% higher than the national average. Massachusetts and Ohio followed closely, with 11.9% and 11.4% of drivers receiving at-fault accident citations, respectively.

South Carolina was 20th, Massachusetts 19th, and Ohio 5th on the list of worst drivers by state in 2022.

Source: Insurify, Quote Wizard

Women are distracted by cell phones more than men

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), cell phone usage has been consistently higher among female drivers from 2005 to 2021. The most significant difference was in 2007, when 8% of women, compared to 5% of men, drove while using a cell phone. The gap narrowed considerably in 2019, to 3% of women and 2.8% of men who used a cell phone while driving.

Source: National Safety Council

The rate of younger drivers distracted behind the wheel is increasing

Unsurprisingly, younger drivers are more likely to be distracted while driving. According to the NSC, in 2005, the rate of hand-held cell phone usage among those ages 16 to 24 was 10.4%, compared to 5.8% among the 25 to 69 age group. In 2020, the rate was 2.6% for those ages 16 to 24, compared to 2.8% for those 25 to 69. In 2021, the rate increased to 3.7% for younger drivers but decreased slightly to 2.5% for those aged 25 to 69.

Source: National Safety Council

California has the highest number of DUIs

According to Quote Wizard, California had the most DUIs in 2022, followed by North Dakota and Idaho. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 9,288 California drivers died between 2009 and 2018, and 1.5% of people said they still drove home after drinking too much.

In Iowa, by comparison, 916 people were killed in alcohol-related car accidents between 2009 and 2018, but 3% self-reported driving while under the influence. The national average is 1.7%

Source: Quote Wizard, Centers for Disease Control

Speeding is a factor in 29% of traffic deaths

In 2020, 11,258 people were killed in speeding-related accidents, an average of more than 30 people per day, according to the NSC. There were 10,136 vehicle crashes attributed to speed that year. In 2020, speeding deaths increased by 17%, the most recorded since 2008. Twenty-nine percent of all traffic deaths were related to speeding in 2020, up from 26% in 2019.

Utah, North Dakota, and Hawaii had the most speeding tickets in 2022, while Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Delaware had the fewest.

Source: National Safety Council, Quote Wizard

Nine people are killed daily by distracted driving incidents

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2019, 3,142 people were killed and 424,000 injured in crashes involving distracted drivers. This comes out to about nine people per day killed by distracted driving.

It's estimated that 1 in 5 of those killed in 2019 were not in vehicles but were pedestrians, riding bikes, or otherwise outside of a car.

According to Quote Wizard, Rhode Island had the most distracted driving citations in 2022.

Source: Centers for Disease Control, Quote Wizard

South Carolina has the highest death rate per number of per-vehicle miles traveled

In 2020, the United States had 35,766 fatal motor vehicle crashes resulting in 38,824 deaths. This amounts to 11.7 deaths per 100,000 people overall. In South Carolina, the death rate per 100 million miles traveled was 1.97, compared to 0.63 in Massachusetts. Massachusetts also had the lowest fatality rate per 100,000 people, at 4.9, compared to Mississippi, the highest at 25.4.

Wyoming had the highest percentage of deaths, 48%, involving those in SUVs and pickup trucks, but the lowest rate of fatalities involving car occupants (21%) in 2020. Vermont had the highest number of deaths of car occupants (44%), but only 16% of traffic deaths involved SUVs and pickup trucks.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Arkansas is the most improved state

Arkansas had the most significant improvement in Quote Wizard’s ranking of best states to drive in, taking the fifth spot in 2022, compared to 13th in 2021. In 2020, Arkansas was the 18th worst state for motorists to drive in. By the numbers, Arkansas ranked 47th in accidents, 44th in speeding tickets, and 41st in other traffic citations. It ranked 39th in DUIs in 2022.

Arkansas did have a relatively high rate of vehicle deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled - 1.88, compared to Connecticut, which had a rate of 0.99.

Source: Quote Wizard, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Tips for staying safe on the road

Driving safely on the road won't just help you get from point A to point B — it can also help you get the best car insurance rates. Insurance companies look at your driving record (along with other factors) when determining your rates.

While you can’t control what happens on the road, there are a few driving habits to ensure you’re as safe as possible.

  • Buckle up: Always wear your seat belt, even if you’re just going down the block. Before putting the car in gear, confirm that all children are correctly buckled into an age- and weight-appropriate booster or car seat.
  • Go the speed limit: Speeding can make you more likely to get in an accident and worsen any potential injuries and damages. Follow the posted speed limits at all times, and pay special attention if road work or an accident requires you to slow down while on the road or highway.
  • Don’t drive impaired or distracted: While most know about the dangers of driving drunk or high, it can be easy to overlook the dangers of driving distracted. According to the CDC, sending or reading a text while driving 55 miles per hour is like going the length of a football field with your eyes closed. Keep your eyes on the road at all times, and pull over if you need to make a phone call or send a text.
  • Don’t follow too closely: Maintaining a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you can help you avoid an accident, especially at high speeds. The NSC recommends keeping at least a three-second following distance between you and the car in front of you. If the weather is bad or you’re driving a large truck or towing a trailer, maintain an even greater distance between vehicles.

Bottom line

As a general rule, Americans love their cars. And while you may live in a state with a reputation for bad driving, it doesn’t mean you can’t travel safely.

Be sure to be polite to other drivers, follow the rules of the road, and maintain a safe distance between you and other vehicles, especially if they appear to be driving erratically. And be sure to keep up adequate insurance coverage, including coverage for accidents involving uninsured drivers.

Avoid distractions and keep your hands on the wheel to give you the best chance of arriving at your destination safely.

Sources

1. Quote Wizard - The Best and Worst Drivers By State 2022

2. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - NHTSA Estimates for 2022 Show Roadway Fatalities Remain Flat After Two Years of Dramatic Increases

3. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - Distracted Driving

4. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - Speeding

5. National Safety Council - Car Crash Deaths and Rates

6. Centers for Disease Control - Distracted Driving

7. National Safety Council - Speeding

8. Centers for Disease Control - Sobering Facts: Alcohol-Impaired Driving California

9. Centers for Disease Control - Sobering Facts: Alcohol-Impaired Driving Iowa

10. National Safety Council - Distracted Driving

11. Insurify - 10 States With the Most Car Accidents in 2022

12. The Zebra - Average Miles Driven Per Year in the U.S.

13. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety - Fatality Facts 2020 State by State

14. Insure.com - Car Insurance Rates by State in 2023

15. The Red Cross - Highway Safety

16. Travelers Insurance - 3-Second Rule for Safe Following Distance

17. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - Drunk Driving

18. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - Newly Released Estimates Show Traffic Fatalities Reached a 16-Year High in 2021

19. Centers for Disease Control - Impaired Driving: Get the Facts

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Author Details

Kate Daugherty

Kate Daugherty is a professional writer with a passion for providing others the head start they deserve on their financial journeys. Largely self-taught, Kate relied on books, blogs, and trial-and-error to learn how to budget and save for the future, all while working to pay back about $15,000 in student loans.