According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 35,000 people lost their lives in traffic crashes last year, marking the largest annual increase in 50 years. With the roads being a dangerous place, where are the worst places to drive?
The Auto Insurance Center compiled 11 years of fatal crash data from NHTSA and ranked states by fatalities per 100,000 residents. Topping the list by a rather large margin is Montana with 108.12 traffic deaths for every 100,000 residents. Check out the map to the right.
With the exception of Montana, a majority of the states with high fatality rates are concentrated in two areas: the South and three connected states in the Midwest. Glean what you will from that information, but several theories may help explain Montana’s high rate of traffic deaths.
To start, Montana has speed limits of up to 80 mph. Trucks are limited to 65 mph, one of the largest speed differentials in the nation. High passenger speeds mixed with significantly lower heavy-duty commercial vehicle speeds is a recipe for disaster.
Second, seat belt use in Montana in 2015 was the fourth worst in the United States (77 percent), followed only by New Hampshire (69.5 percent), South Carolina (73.6 percent) and Massachusetts (74.1 percent). The national average was 88.5 percent.
Lastly, Montana ranks sixth in highest percentage of traffic deaths where a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher was involved (38 percent) in 2014. In fatal crashes involving a BAC of 0.15 or higher, Montana tied Rhode Island for highest percentage of crashes in the state at 30 percent.
With high speeds, large speed differentials, low seat belt usage and a lot of drinking and driving going on, it’s not too surprising that Montana’s fatal crash rate is the highest in the nation.
Let’s not forget the fact that Montana is among the most rural states in the country, placing firehouses and hospitals further away when compared to more urban and suburban areas. Your chances of survival decrease each passing minute it takes for emergency crews to respond.
Indiana drivers should be required to take anger management courses before obtaining a driver’s license. More than 12 deaths per 100,000 residents were the result of road rage in the Hoosier State. In a distant second was South Carolina with a rate of six deaths.
Be attentive when driving through Mississippi and Wyoming. In those states, more than 90 deaths per 100,000 residents occurred because drivers could not stay in the proper lane.
Weather played a major factor in the South and northern Great Plains. Mississippi, Kentucky, West Virginia, Alabama and South Carolina were the top five states reporting deaths when rain was a factor. As for snow, Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana, Alaska and Michigan experienced the most traffic deaths per capita.
To see the entire AIC report, click here.
A lot of factors lead to traffic deaths. The most you can do is be a safe driver and hope the crazies stay out of your way.