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Do states with strict driving laws have fewer car accidents?

You don’t want to get pulled over in these states — but you are safer on the roads.

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While the States may be united overall, they’re divided on laws that govern their roadways and how those laws are enforced. Yet these driving laws are in place for a reason — to keep everyone safe on the road and prevent serious injuries or death.

To determine whether stricter driving laws affect car accidents, we started by comparing laws and penalties for drunk driving, seatbelts and speeding. Then we looked at fatal crash rates using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the US Federal Highway Administration.

Strictest driving laws and car accidents by state

Alaska and Oregon take the No. 1 rank for the strictest driving laws, based on our analysis of drunk driving, seatbelt and speeding laws. If you’re caught zooming above the speed limit in Alaska, you could be pinned with fines anywhere from $250 to $2,000. Drunk driving could leave you with a 90-day suspension and up to $6,250 in fines.

In Oregon, you could pay $300 in speeding fines, and you’ll be pegged with a $1,000 fine minimum for drunk driving. The state also knows how to keep everyone buckled up. Around 96% of Oregonians buckle up when they’re on the road, one of the highest use rates in the country.

Want to know where your state ends up for safety rank or accident rate? Check out our interactive map or table.

RankStateAccident rate per 100K driversMaximum speed limitSpeeding penaltiesLicense suspension length on first DUISeatbelt enforcement
6Alabama43.970$500 and/or 3 months in jail90 daysPrimary
1Alaska22.465$30090 daysPrimary
9Arizona33.975$500 and/or 30 days in jail90 daysSecondary
12Arkansas44.275$500 and/or 6 months6 monthsPrimary
8California23.970$2504 monthsPrimary
6Colorado2675$1003 monthsSecondary
5Connecticut1865$9090 daysPrimary
9Delaware30.865$953 monthsPrimary (civil penalty)
11Florida38.670$2506 months for DUI, 12 months for breath test refusalPrimary
8Georgia39.770$5001 yearPrimary
7Hawaii21.160$5003 monthsPrimary
18Idaho31.780$30090 daysSecondary
6Illinois22.270$1,500 and/or 30 days in jail6 monthsPrimary
17Indiana33.370$1,000180 daysPrimary
3Iowa27.870$625 and/or 30 days in jail180 daysPrimary
9Kansas33.875$50030 daysPrimary
9Kentucky44.970$10030-120 daysPrimary
6Louisiana41.375$500 and/or 90 days in jailNo suspensionPrimary
16Maine27.675$50090 daysPrimary
13Maryland21.870$500180 daysPrimary. Secondary for backseat passengers
11Massachusetts13.165Exact speed over the limit determines the fine per mile over.90 daysSecondary
14Michigan25.675Exact speed over the limit determines the fine per mile over.30-180 daysPrimary
11Minnesota19.670$1,000 and/or 90 days in jail90 daysPrimary
18Mississippi59.670$500 and/or 6 months in jail90 daysPrimary
14Missouri39.470$1,000 and/or 6 months in jail90 daysPrimary for passengers ages 8-15. Otherwise, secondary
17Montana40.380$2006 monthsSecondary
14Nebraska29.675$30090 daysSecondary
8Nevada27.180$1,000 and/or 6 months in jail90 daysSecondary
18New Hampshire14.970$3506 monthsPrimary for anyone under age 18. No seatbelt law for adults
17New Jersey16.765$200 and/or 15 days in jail3 monthsPrimary. Secondary for backseat passengers
16New Mexico51.575$200Drivers under age 21: 1 year. Drivers age 21+: 6 monthsPrimary
4New York14.865$600 and/or 30 days in jailYesPrimary
13North Carolina34.970$10030 daysPrimary. Secondary for backseat passengers
15North Dakota31.775The number of miles per hour over the speed limit determines the fine amount. For example: exceeding speed limit by 46+ mph add $5 per mph above limit plus $10091 daysPrimary for anyone under age 18. Otherwise, secondary
5Ohio26.770$500 and/or 60 days in jail90 daysSecondary
10Oklahoma49.980$205 and/or 6 months in jail180 daysPrimary
1Oregon31.370$2,00090 daysPrimary
14Pennsylvania22.370The number of miles per hour over the speed limit determines the fine amount. For example: $42.50 for exceeding 65 mph limit, plus $2 for every mph over 5 mph above limitNo suspensionPrimary for anyone ages 8-17. Otherwise, secondary
15Rhode Island14.365$250+ for going 11 mph or more above speed limit30-180 daysPrimary
11South Carolina49.870$200BAC 0.08-0.14: no suspension. BAC 0.15+: 1 monthPrimary
20South Dakota27.380$500 and/or 30 days30 daysSecondary
2Tennessee37.470$50 and/or 30 days1 yearPrimary
19Texas37.385$20090 days or 180 days for breath test refusalPrimary
13Utah2180$870120 daysPrimary
15Vermont15.765$1,00090 daysPrimary for anyone under age 18. Otherwise, secondary
2Virginia27.370The number of miles per hour over the speed limit determines the fine amount. For example: $6 for each mile above the speed limit; $7 in a work zone7 daysPrimary for anyone under age 18. Otherwise, secondary
8Washington1775$25090 daysPrimary
18West Virginia44.370$5006 monthsPrimary
13Wisconsin24.570$3006-9 monthsPrimary
19Wyoming55.380$500 and/or 6 months90 daysSecondary

How drunk driving laws affect car accidents

States that keep strict laws for DUIs see an average of 8.2 fatal drunk driving crashes per 100,000 drivers, while the least strict states see an average of 9.1 crashes per 100,000 drivers.

We ranked the strictest states by looking at the DUI fines, minimum jail times, how long a person’s license is suspended and whether an ignition interlock device is required once someone gets their license back.

We sourced these laws from Nolo, a legal website that publishes guides about insurance, driving laws and other legal topics.

Strictest states on drunk driving

Compare the strictest states on drunk driving, their DUI penalties and their rate of fatal crashes per 100,000 drivers.

RankStatesLicense suspension on first DUIDUI fines and feesIgnition interlock device requiredFatal crash involving a drunk driver per 100k drivers
1Oregon90 days$1,000 to $6,250No10.4
2Alaska7 days$1,500 to $25,000Yes, if BAC .15 or above7.2
3Tennessee180 days$350 to $1,500No9.4
3Utah6 monthsAt least $1,310Possible3.4
3Virginia30-180 days$250 to $2,500No7.9
4Connecticut6 months$500 to $1,000Yes6.7
5California3 months$1,400 to $2,600No6.2
5Colorado90 daysUp to $1,000 (DUI), or up to $500 (DWAI)Yes7.2
5Iowa4 months$625 to $1,200Yes, in some counties8.4
5Kansas90 days$750 to $1,000No7.6
5Washington3 months$865.50 to $5,000Possible5.7
6MinnesotaNo suspension$1,000Possible4.7
6South Carolina90 days$400 to $1,000No13.9
7Georgia180 days$300 to $1,000Yes, if BAC above .109.4
7Montana90 days$300 to $1,000No14.6
7Nevada90 days$400 to $1,000No8.0
7Ohio3 months$250 to $1,000No8.1
8Arizona1 year$250 base fineYes8.7
8Delaware90 days$500 to $1,150No6.8
8Florida90 days$500 to $2,000Yes9.4
8Louisiana30 days$300 to $1,000Yes12.2
8Massachusetts90 days or 180 days for breath test refusal$500 to $5,000No4.3
8NebraskaYesUp to $500Yes7.3
8New York180 days$500 to $1,000No4.0
9Arkansas90 days$150 to $1,000Yes11.5
9Illinois90 daysUp to $2,500No6.8
9Oklahoma30 daysUp to $1,000No11.7
RankStatesLicense suspension on first DUIDUI fines and feesIgnition interlock device requiredFatal crash involving a drunk driver per 100k drivers
10Alabama90 days$600 to $2,100Yes12.7
10KentuckyBAC 0.08-0.14: no suspension. BAC 0.15+: 1 month$600 to $2,100No8.7
10New Hampshire30-120 days$500 to $1,200No5.3
10North Carolina91 days$200 (for level 5 offender)No8.2
10North Dakota90 days$500 to $750No12.5
10Texas6-9 monthsUp to $2,000No13.7
11Maine180 days$500 to $2,000No8.7
12Mississippi6 months for DUI. 12 months for breath test refusal$250 to $1,000Yes16.1
12New Jersey90 days$250 to $500Yes3.7
13Maryland6 monthsUp to $1,000 (DUI); up to $500 (DWI)Possible6.6
13Michigan3 monthsFrom $100 to $500No6.7
13WisconsinDrivers under age 21: 1 year. Drivers age 21+: 6 months$150 to $300Yes7.8
14Hawaii120 days$150 to $1,000No6.6
14Idaho1 yearUp to $1,000No10.1
14Indiana6 months$500 to $5,000Yes9.0
14Rhode Island90 days$100 to $500Yes, if BAC .15 or above6.5
14Vermont30-180 daysUp to $750Possible3.2
14WyomingNo suspensionUp to $750Yes, if refusal to take chemical test13.8
15Missouri90 daysUp to $500Possible10.4
15New Mexico6 monthsUp to $500No15.1
15Pennsylvania90 days$300No6.2
15South Dakota30 daysUp to $2,000No8.1
15West Virginia90 days$100 to $1,000Possible9.9

How seatbelt laws affect car accidents

Buckling up is paramount to car safety, but not all states enforce seatbelts the same way. We ranked each state by looking at how seatbelt laws are enforced, child restraint laws and how many people use seatbelts in that state.

The strictest states allow primary enforcement, which means officers can stop you for not wearing a seatbelt without any other violation. Those states also enforce the law for all ages of occupants.

The least strict states typically allow enforcement only if another violation happens, called secondary enforcement. All states have child passenger safety laws for infants and young children. We sourced seatbelt laws from the GHSA and seatbelt use by state from the NHTSA.

Strictest states on using seatbelts

States with strict laws and enforcement for seatbelts see 1.5 drivers or passengers per 100,000 people killed after being ejected from a car. On the other hand, the least strict states see an average of 2.4 people killed per 100,000.

See how state laws and fatal crash rates compare.

RankStatesAdult seatbelt allowedSeatbelt enforcement% Seatbelt useFatalities after vehicle ejection per 100K people
1Alaska4-7 years and 65 lbs or 57″ tall 7 years, if under height and weight limitPrimary for all riders94.12.5
1Oregon8 years or over 4’9″ tallPrimary, age 8+ or 57+” tall95.71.3
2Alabama6 yearsPrimary for all riders92.33.2
2California8 years or 4’9″ tall in booster seatPrimary, ages 8-17 Otherwise, secondary96.01.0
2Hawaii4-7 years and over 4’9″ tall 4-7 years and 40 lbs. if only rear seat lap belt availablePrimary, age 8+97.10.5
2Louisiana9-12 years and over 60 lbs.Primary for all riders87.52.3
2New York8 yearsPrimary, age 8+94.20.4
3Tennessee9 years or over 4’9″ tallPrimary, age 13+91.82.0
4Connecticut8-15 years and 60 lbs.Primary, age 16+ Secondary for backseat passengers93.70.7
4Iowa6 yearsPrimary, age 13+94.61.8
4Ohio8 yearsPrimary, age 7+85.91.4
4Oklahoma8 years or 4’9″ tallPrimary, age 8+84.72.5
4Wisconsin8 years, over 80 lbs. or over 57″ tallPrimary for anyone under age 18 No seatbelt law for adults90.21.9
5Arizona5-7 years and over 57″ tallPrimary for anyone under age 18 Otherwise, secondary90.62.0
5Colorado8 yearsPrimary, age 15+88.32.2
5GeorgiaOver 57″ tall 40 lbs. if only rear seat lap belt availablePrimary, age 16+95.91.8
5Illinois8 years Over 40 lbs. in rear seat if only lap belt availableSecondary Primary for ages 8-14 years94.31.1
5Kansas8 years 4-7 years and over 80 lbs. or over 57″ tallPrimary, age 6+84.91.8
5Maine8 years or over 57″ tallSecondary, age 16+ Primary for under 1888.51.3
5Nevada6 years and 57″ tallPrimary, age 16+94.21.5
5New Jersey8 years or over 57″ tallPrimary, age 16+90.20.4
5Pennsylvania8 yearsPrimary, age 16+88.61.1
5Rhode Island8 years, 80 lbs. or 57″ tallPrimary for 18+ Secondary for 14-17 years old88.30.8
5Washington4’9″ tall with seatbelt fitted properly 40 lbs. in seats with only lap beltSecondary, age 6+93.10.9
RankStatesAdult seatbelt allowedSeatbelt enforcement% Seatbelt useFatalities after vehicle ejection per 100K people
6Delaware8-15 years or 66 lbs.Primary, age 16+92.51.1
6Idaho7 yearsPrimary, age 8+85.73.0
6Indiana8 yearsPrimary, age 16+ or over 4’9″ tall94.91.6
6KentuckyOver 57″ tallPrimary, age 16+ Secondary for backseat passengers89.72.7
6Maryland8 years or over 57″ tallPrimary for anyone under age 18 Otherwise, secondary90.41.0
6Massachusetts8 years or 57″ tallPrimary, age 8+81.60.7
6Michigan8 years or 57″ tallPrimary for passengers ages 8-15 Otherwise, secondary94.41.1
6Minnesota8 years or over 57″ tallPrimary, age 16+93.40.9
6North Carolina8 years or 40-80 lbs. in seats without shoulder beltsPrimary for anyone under age 18 Otherwise, secondary88.41.8
6North Dakota8 years or 57″ tallPrimary, age 8+83.73.5
6Texas8 years or over 57″ tallPrimary, age 18+90.91.9
6Vermont8 years and over 20 lbs.Primary for drivers under 18 Secondary, age 7+89.31.0
7Arkansas6-14 years and 60 lbs.Primary, age 8+81.92.5
7Missouri8 years and 80 lbs. or over 4’9″ tallSecondary, age 6+87.72.8
7Nebraska8 yearsPrimary, age 15+79.73.0
7New Mexico7 yearsSecondary, age 13+91.84.6
7South Carolina8 years, 80 lbs. or 57″ tallSecondary, age 18+90.32.6
7Virginia8 years or 4-7 years with physician’s exemptionPrimary, age 16+85.41.7
7Wyoming9 yearsPrimary, age 7+ or 57+” tall78.38.5
8Florida6 yearsPrimary, age 16+89.81.5
8Mississippi7 years, 57″ or 65 lbs.Primary, age 18+80.54.0
8New Hampshire7 years or 57″ tallPrimary, age 8+ or 57+” tall70.70.4
8Utah8 years or 57″ tallSecondary, age 9+90.21.3
9Montana6 years and over 60 lbs.Secondary, age 8+88.94.4
9South Dakota5 yearsPrimary, front seat riders Secondary, backseat passengers75.23.1
9West Virginia8 years and 4’9″ tallSecondary, age 18+90.22.5

How speeding laws affect car accidents

We ranked the strictest states on speeding by looking for low maximum speed limits and strict speeding enforcement through automated traffic cameras. The result? The strictest states on speeding see an average of 8.1 fatal car crashes per 100,000 drivers.

Meanwhile, the least strict states average 8.6 fatal crashes per 100,000 drivers. We found that these states were more likely to prohibit using traffic cameras at all.

We sourced this information from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the legal website Nolo. We did not rank states based on their speeding fines but included this information for comparison.

Strictest states for speeding

See how the speeding laws, fines and speed-related fatal crashes compare across the US.

RankStatesMaximum speed limitSpeeding fines on 1st offenseSpeed-related fatal crashes per 100K driversSpeeding (10 points)
1Hawaii60$2009.98.5
2Illinois70$1508.38
2Virginia801-10 mph: $170; 11-15 mph: $220; 16-20 mph: $320; 21-25 mph: $470; 26-30 mph: $670; 31+ mph: $8707.48
3Alaska70$250-$2,0009.47.5
4Alabama651-10 mph: $45-$150; 10-30 mph: $90-$300/15 days; 30+ mph: $180-$600/30 days9.97
4Iowa75$175/30 days in jail5.97
4Missouri80$1,000/6 months14.37
4New York70$30-$3004.17
4Ohio70$100/10 days7.57
5Kentucky70$1006.36.5
6Colorado70$100/10 days in jail10.36
6Georgia65$25-$756.46
6Louisiana70$65-$625/30 days in jail5.26
6Maryland65$1,000 max.5.76
6Nevada70$1007.56
6New Mexico65$50 min. + $10 for every mph above speed limit18.26
6Oregon70$300 max. for petty misdemeanor8.76
6Pennsylvania75The number of miles per hour over the speed limit determines the fine amount9.16
6Tennessee801-10 mph: $5; 11-15 mph: $20; 16-20 mph: $35; 21-25 mph: $75; 26-30 mph: $135; 31-35 mph: $155; 36+ mph: $205 and/or 10 days in jail5.56
6West Virginia80$500/30 days14.26
7Connecticut70$500 max.4.85.5
7Delaware70$1,000 max.7.65.5
7Florida70$50/30 days ?3.65.5
7Michigan70Infraction: $400; Class B Misdemeanor: $1,000/6 months6.65.5
7Vermont80$300 max.6.85.5
RankStatesMaximum speed limitSpeeding fines on 1st offenseSpeed-related fatal crashes per 100K driversSpeeding (10 points)
8Arizona70$6 for each mph above speed limit, $7 per mph in work zones10.75
8Arkansas70$500 max.11.45
8Rhode Island75$500 max.8.65
8Washington80Up to 10 mph: $40; 11-20 mph: $70; 21-30 mph: $120; 31 mph+: $2004.95
8Wisconsin701-10 mph: $50; 11-15 mph: $75; 16-20 mph: $100; 21-25 mph: $200; 26 mph+: $3507.35
9Indiana75$250 max.8.04.5
9Massachusetts65$35-$903.04.5
9North Carolina75Based on speed7.84.5
9Oklahoma70$1009.94.5
10Idaho651-10 mph: $95; 11+ mph: $250+7.14
10Mississippi75$15-$20010.54
10South Carolina751-5 mph: $10; 6-10 mph: $25; 11-15 mph: $75; 16-20 mph: $125; 21-35 mph: $200 ; 36 mph+: $30022.54
11California70Speeding w/ 65 mph speed limit: $42.50; Other violations: $35 + $2 for mph after reaching 5 mph above speed limit7.03.5
11Kansas70$25-$2509.23.5
11Minnesota65$300 max.4.43.5
11Nebraska75Misdemeanor for speeding above 15 mph: $100/10 days in jail5.43.5
11North Dakota701-10 mph: $15-$25; 11-14 mph: $25-$50; 15-24 mph: $50-$75; 25+ mph: $75-$2008.43.5
11South Dakota65$50-$200 / 15 days6.53.5
12Maine75$15-$1008.13
12New Hampshire70$60-$1005.13
12New Jersey70$1,000 max.3.03
13Montana75$250 max. for most violations; $500/30 days max. for excessive speeding; speeding under 10 mph: $15 + surcharges12.42.5
13Wyoming85$200 max.17.12.5
14Utah80– 1-10 mph: $5 per mph above limit with $25 max – 11-20 mph: $45 + $5/mph when going 10+ mph above limit – 20+ mph: $95 + $5/mph when going 20+ mph above limit5.32
15Texas75$25-$50011.20

Methodology

To measure the states with the strictest laws, Finder collected data on drunk driving, seatbelt and speeding laws across the 50 states using specific metrics. We gave higher scores to stricter states, which we then used to rank each state.

Drunk driving penalties (Total possible points: 10)

  1. Drunk driving minimum jail time (3 points)
  2. Drunk driving minimum fine (3 points)
  3. Minimum license suspension (3 points)
  4. Ignition interlock device required (1 point)

Seatbelt enforcement (Total possible points: 10)

  1. Type of enforcement — primary or secondary (3)
  2. Type of child restraint enforced — rear-facing infant seat, forward-facing child safety seat and booster (2)
  3. Age that adult seatbelt is permitted (2)
  4. Percentage of seatbelt use (3)

Speeding enforcement (Total possible points: 10)

  1. Type of limit — absolute, basic, prima facie, mixed (2 points)
  2. Maximum posted speed limit (4 points)
  3. Minimum speeding fine (2 points)
  4. Auto speed enforcement permitted (2 points)

Previous findings:

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