Montana Is the Most Dangerous State to Drive In

Douglas A. McIntyre

Based on a 24/7 Wall St. analysis of driving risk in all 50 states, Montana is the most dangerous state to drive in. Among the reasons Montana has an unusually high 22.6 road deaths per 100,000 is that drivers who wear seat belts are very low compared to the national average. While about 87% of Americans use a seat belt, in Montana only 74% buckle up.

According to the analysis, Montana had 229 roadway fatalities in 2013.

Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), explained that in four out of the five most dangerous states, well over half of all miles driven in 2013 were in rural areas. By contrast, in 22 of the 25 safest states, less than half of all miles driven were through rural areas. Rader explained that this makes a difference because on rural roads, “speeds are higher and there are more two lane roads (where) risk is greater for head-on collisions.” By contrast, in urban areas, “speeds are lower, there’s more congestion, and that means that fatal crashes are less likely.”

In Montana, more than 69% of all vehicle miles driven in 2013 were in rural areas. Correspondingly, 98% of all deadly accidents in the state happened in rural areas.

Montana’s numbers are particularly bad when compared to the rest of the country. The number of fatal injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents has dropped significantly over the past 10 years. In 2003, 42,884 were killed in motor vehicle accidents. By 2013, that number dropped to 32,719. While the death rate across the country for 2013 was roughly one out of every 10,000 U.S. residents, the fatality rate varied considerably state by state.

To rank the safest and most dangerous states to drive in, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed state by state fatality data from the IIHS, along with urban and rural travel data provided by the FHA, each for 2013. The number of fatal roadway deaths was then adjusted for population and noted as fatalities per 100,000 residents. Penalties for alcohol impaired driving by state were provided by WalletHub. Fatal injuries due to vehicle accidents include pedestrian and cyclist fatalities.

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