Deadliest places to drive in the US

From the most dangerous cities to the riskiest holidays, a few states consistently ride at the top.

Updated . What changed?

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The most dangerous driving states share a theme of high populations and deaths related to drunk driving. Some states are named multiple times on holiday lists — including Texas, California and Florida.

We compared recent road fatality data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to find the worst times and places to drive in.

Deadliest states for driving

The top three deadliest states in America — Texas, California and Florida— are in a category all their own, according to road fatality data from the NHTSA.

These states faced the deaths of 3,642 drivers for Texas, 3,563 for California and 3,133 for Florida in 2018. Compare that to states with much lower road fatalities, such as Rhode Island’s 59 deaths, Alaska’s 80 deaths or Washington D.C.’s 31 deaths.

And it wasn’t just a bad year for these states. Ten years of data from 2008 to 2018 tell a similar story, with Texas at 34,000 driving fatalities, California seeing 33,034 and Florida at 27,891 deaths.

States with the most road fatalities per year

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State 2018 fatalities 10 years
Texas 3642 34000
California 3563 33034
Florida 3133 27891
Georgia 1504 13710
North Carolina 1437 13742
Pennsylvania 1190 12713
Ohio 1068 10998
Tennessee 1041 10197
South Carolina 1037 9203
Illinois 1031 9961
Arizona 1010 8730
Michigan 974 9732
Alabama 953 9094
New York 943 11534
Missouri 921 8654
Indiana 858 8010
Virginia 820 7900
Louisiana 768 7620
Kentucky 724 7582
Mississippi 664 6533
Oklahoma 655 6830
Colorado 632 5298
Wisconsin 588 5795
New Jersey 564 6012
Washington 546 5045
Arkansas 516 5463
Oregon 506 3934
Maryland 501 5235
Kansas 404 3933
New Mexico 391 3539
Minnesota 381 3941
Massachusetts 360 3731
Nevada 330 2929
Iowa 318 3520
West Virginia 294 3170
Connecticut 294 2832
Utah 260 2529
Idaho 231 2158
Nebraska 230 2129
Montana 182 2037
New Hampshire 147 1207
Maine 137 1554
South Dakota 130 1250
Hawaii 117 1108
Delaware 111 1162
Wyoming 111 1266
North Dakota 105 1250
Alaska 80 682
Vermont 68 651
Rhode Island 59 664
D.C. 31 269

Why do these states have the most dangerous roads?

One interesting phenomenon: The top three are also the most populated states with the highest number of drunk driving fatalities. In addition, all have major cities that bottleneck traffic in one location.

These facts show that states with many residents risk more accidents because, as you’d expect, there are more cars on the road. Plus, people who get behind the wheel while intoxicated pose added risk.

Deadliest cities for driving

Highly populated Los Angeles ranks as the deadliest driving city in the US, tallying 628 deaths. Phoenix and Houston take second and third place with 466 fatal accidents in Phoenix and 366 in Houston in 2018, according to the NHTSA.

Again, these cities are some of the most populated cities in America, so stay extra vigilant when driving in these urban areas.

Cities with the most annual road fatalities

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Most dangerous time of day to drive

Most people don’t think twice about zipping home after work or road-tripping at night. But statistics show that the riskiest driving times are between 8 pm and 10 pm, according to the NHTSA. Second to that is rush hour anytime from 5 pm to 8 pm. These times are likely when most people are commuting home or going to restaurants or stores.

When you’re not steering clear of weekday traffic, nights and weekends bring more risk with drunk drivers and low visibility, says the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. To avoid this high-risk time of day, try staying off the road from midnight to 3 a.m.

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Deadliest holidays

Celebrations and holidays lead to more accidents and drunk driving. While New Year’s might be your first guess, July 4th is the deadliest holiday on the road, according to NHTSA data.

4th july
Fourth of July
This weekend sees over 450 fatal accidents each year. In the past 10 years, nearly 46% of accidents on the 4th were related to drunk driving.
memorial day
Memorial Day
Another top drunk driving day comes in second with 360 fatal accidents per year — and about 37% of those are caused by drunk drivers.
Thanks giving
Thanksgiving
It’s a high-risk weekend to drive that hits around 330 driving-related deaths each year.
christmas angel
Christmas
Holiday merrymaking leads to about 260 fatalities from year to year. And a huge majority of its drunk driving fatalities happened during night hours.
notebook and coffee
Labor Day
The last holiday of summer sees a solid 300 fatalities each year, and many of those happen in California.
Houston landscape
New Year’s Day
January celebrations cause around 250 fatal accidents annually, with drunk drivers causing shy of half those deaths.

Where are holiday deaths the worst?

You guessed it: Texas. Being one of the biggest deadliest driving states, Texas holds the highest number of deaths for Memorial Day and New Year’s — and is top three for July 4th, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Labor Day.

California has the highest rates for July 4th, Thanksgiving and Labor Day.

Bottom line

The most deadly car accidents happen in cities where roads get crowded and during holidays when drunk driving persists. But no matter where you live, you can prepare for the worst and hope for the best by getting insurance protection before getting on the road.

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