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We often shout “Drive Safely!” as people head out the door. This isn’t just a common farewell. We say it because we want our loved ones to make it home in one piece, and sadly, deadly collisions on U.S. public roadways are far too likely these days.
In just the U.S. in 2015, 32,166 fatal car accidents caused 35,092 unplanned, preventable deaths. This works out to be 10.9 traffic deaths for every 100,000 Americans in just one year.
With distracted driving and fatal crashes on the rise, Americans need to take this public safety matter seriously. Fortunately, parts of the U.S. seem to be doing just that.
- Total Fatalities by Miles Driven
- Total Driver Fatalities
- Total Motorcyclist Fatalities
- Total Passenger Fatalities
- Total Pedestrian Fatalities
- Total Pedalcyclist Fatalities
For each category, all 51 areas were ranked against each other — first having the most deaths. Those six rankings were added up to give a telling final score.
The areas with the best drivers (lowest death rates) got the highest scores, and the areas with the worst drivers got the lowest scores (higher death rates).
Click here to view the detailed analysis and to see how your state stacked up in each category.
10 States with the Least Traffic-Related Deaths
Click here to view our interactive graphics!
Read on to discover which states have the lowest crash-related fatalities, and how you can start making small changes to improve your driving. No one should have to lose their life on the road.
#10 – Virginia
Best Ranking: Motorcyclist Fatalities – 47th
Worst Ranking: Pedalcyclist Fatalities – 23rd
Even though Virginia ranked better than the 46 other areas of the U.S. for this category, they still had 79 motorcyclists killed in traffic accidents, which is scary high.
Virginia drivers need to share the road better and pay attention to those around them if they want to avoid landing on our WORST list.
Best Ranking: Motorcyclist Fatalities – 45th
Worst Ranking: Pedalcyclist Fatalities – 18th
With the same best and worst rankings, Washington and Virginia seem to be good at looking twice to save a life for motorcyclists, now they need to apply this to those pedaling as well.
The Evergreen State might have made it on our Best Drivers list this year, but with a 23 percent increase in fatal crashes since 2014, it’s actually headed in the wrong direction.
Hopefully the 568 unnecessary traffic deaths that occurred in 2015 were enough of a wake up call for Washington residents to drive safer. We would like to see them on this least traffic fatalities countdown again next year.
#7 – Illinois (Tied)
Best Ranking: Passenger Fatalities – 43rd
Worst Ranking: Pedalcyclist Fatalities – 18th
159 Illinois residents were passengers along for a ride when they died in fatal car crashes in 2015. These lost passengers made up 16 percent of the traffic fatalities that year, which is a lower rate than 42 other states in our country.
Like the states in 9th and 10th, Illinois’ worst ranking was in the pedalcyclist category with 26 people killed while burning calories and saving gas.
We are proud of The Prairie State for having some of the best drivers in our nation. We hope they can decrease their number of bicyclist deaths and get in our top five next year.
#7 – New Jersey (Tied)
Best Ranking: Motorcyclist Fatalities – 50th
Worst Ranking: Pedestrian Fatalities – 10th
Even though it tied with Illinois, New Jersey earned a higher spot on this year’s Least Traffic Deaths Countdown because its best ranking was higher than Illinois’ best. Jersey’s winning ranking is impressive with a lower rate of motorcyclist deaths than every other state in America. It was only beat by D.C.
Unfortunately, New Jersey, ranks in the top 10 for the WORST in the U.S. for its Pedestrian Death Ranking. In 2015 alone, 170 pedestrians were killed by motorists. Over 30 percent of all those who died in fatal crashes were on foot!
On a more positive note, The Garden State had to beat the odds to earn a spot on this list with the highest population density and most dense highway system in all of America.
#6 – New York
Best Ranking: Passenger Fatalities – 48th
Worst Ranking: Pedestrian Fatalities – 21st
This jam-packed city with crowded streets and 55 percent of the households not even owning a car really help to explain the high ranking of pedestrian deaths.
New York ranks in the worst half of the U.S. for its rate of pedestrian and pedalcyclist fatalities. There were a total of 343 pedestrians and bicyclists killed in New York in 2015, which is a major safety issue. However, New York deserves a spot on this list thanks to its top five lowest traffic fatality ranking in all three categories: passenger, driver, and motorcyclist deaths.
Best Ranking: Passenger Fatalities – 47th
Worst Ranking: Pedestrian Fatalities – 26th
It’s fitting that The Land of Steady Habits made it on this list thanks to steady safe driving habits by its citizens.
Ranked better than over 92 percent of the country, Connecticut’s low passenger fatality rate is impressive. This small but mighty state also ranks in the top 10 for the lowest rate of driver deaths.
Hopefully the state’s motto, “He Who Transplanted Still Sustains” will apply to Connecticut sustaining a spot on this best driver countdown for years to come!
#4 – Minnesota
Best Ranking: Pedestrian Fatalities – 51st
Worst Ranking: Pedalcyclist Fatalities – 23rd
Surprisingly, the two categories inhabiting the sidelines of the road are on opposite ends of the spectrum in Minnesota.
The safest place for someone to take a walk in our nation is in Minnesota, the state with the lowest rate of pedestrian deaths. But, pedalcyclists in this state aren’t so lucky with a higher death rate in Minnesota than 55 percent of America.
Thanks to new laws regarding motorists and bicyclists on Minnesota roads, it’s promising that The North Star State will continue to be a star at the north end of this list for having the least traffic-related deaths next year.
#3 – District of Columbia
Best Ranking: (Tied) Driver, Motorcyclist, and Passenger Fatalities – 51st
Worst Ranking: Pedestrian Fatalities – 23rd
It may not have the highest overall final score, but our nation’s capital is definitely winning in regards to its “Best Ranking,” with three categories ranked the best in the entire U.S.
All three best ranking factors only had three fatalities each in the District of Columbia. We would obviously prefer those numbers to be zero, but under ten total deaths for all three of those categories is extremely impressive!
We hope The American Rome continues to raise the bar on safe driving standards in our nation.
Best Ranking: Fatalities by Miles Driven – 50th
Worst Ranking: Pedestrian Fatalities – 20th
Rhode Island ranked in the worst half of the U.S. in the Pedestrian Fatality category with eight people killed by motorists while walking to their destination.
Proving it deserves its spot at the top of this, The Ocean State ranked top five in the U.S. for each of the remaining five categories:
- Pedalcyclist Fatalities: 47th
- Drivers Fatalities: 48th
- Motorcyclist Fatalities: 48th
- Passenger Fatalities: 49th
- Fatalities by Miles Driven: 50th
Rhode Island isn’t just home to the Tennis Hall of Fame, it’s home to some of the best drivers in our country. Keep it up, Rhode Islanders!
Best Ranking: Fatalities by Miles Driven – 51st
Worst Ranking: Pedestrian Fatalities – 36th
Massachusetts ranked in the top three in the U.S. for having the lowest rates of driver, motorcyclist, and passenger fatalities. Plus with a rate of only .52 traffic deaths for every 100 million miles traveled, Massachusetts drivers clearly understand the importance of safety on the roads.
The derogatory term used for Massachusetts drivers, Massholes, is so common that it has been officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary.
Drivers in this state might have a bad reputation, but numbers don’t lie. Massachusetts overall has the lowest rate of traffic fatalities in our study, winning this competition with 11 points to spare.
Maybe we all need to learn to drive like Massholes.
What does the data tell us?
They may not all be north of the Mason-Dixon Line, but as you can see on the above map, the places with the smallest number of those killed in traffic accidents are all located in the northern portion of our country.
Seventy percent of the states with the best drivers in our nation all live in what is defined as the North.
– Who’s in the most danger?
In the ten states with the least traffic deaths, people walking and biking on public roads are in the most danger.
Every one of the areas on this countdown had pedestrian or pedalcyclist fatalities as their worst ranking out of all six categories.
Even our nation’s safest drivers need to work on paying attention to crosswalks, checking for pedestrians before turning, and sharing the road with bicyclists.
– Who’s in the least danger?
Not only do the ten states on this list have the safest roads in the U.S., they also have the lowest rates of motorcycle and passenger deaths.
80 percent of the states on this list had motorcyclist or passenger fatalities as their best ranking.
The areas in America with the least traffic fatalities have learned to “look twice to save a life” and wear their seatbelts. Making sure everyone is buckled up is vital to keeping the passengers in your vehicle safe.
How to Be the Best
We all have a lot to lose when we don’t drive safely. If where you live didn’t make this list, do your part to turn things around in your area.
Using NHTSA resources, we compiled 20 Driver Safety Tips:
- Try to avoid driving in heavy traffic and bad weather
- Wear your seatbelt (correctly)
- Don’t speed or drive too slow
- Always stay alert!
- Don’t tailgate
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Use your turn signals
- Check your blind spots when changing lanes or reversing
- Be sure you have enough gas
- Stop at railroad crossings
- Never eat, drink, or use your phone while driving
- Never drive impaired by drugs or alcohol
- Don’t drive if you are angry or tired
- Keep your windshields and mirrors clean
- Have a cloth in your vehicle for dirty or foggy windows
- Replace windshield wiper blades as needed
- Invest in windshield wiper fluid
- Talk to your doctor about driving on any new medication
- Make sure your vision is clear especially for night time driving
- Regularly service your vehicle
To step up your game, even more, take a Driver Safety Course. Call or visit the below websites to find classes near you:
AARP Smart Driver
AAA Driver Education
NSC Defensive Driving
Complete Rankings: States with Least Traffic Fatalities
– To sort the table by category, click on header columns.