In fact, eight of the 10 states graded as having the least safe driving habits reported lower traffic fatality rates than the national rate of 1.13 fatalities per 100M miles driven in 2016. This includes Rhode Island, the state where drivers exhibit the worst habits, which had the second lowest fatality rate at 0.57 per 100 million miles. Massachusetts, which has the lowest traffic fatality rate, one of the worst graded state in EverDrive’s report.
At the other end of the list, eight of the 10 states with the best safety driving habits report vehicle fatality rates at or above the national rate. Montana, the best graded state, had the second highest fatality rate at 1.81 deaths per 100 million miles driven in 2016.
In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Ryan Ruffing, director of communications for EverQuote, explained that while the habits measured by EverDrive are indeed important to safety, the issue is more complicated. In many of the states where residents are less likely to exceed the speed limit, the limits tend to be higher. So while drivers in states like Montana and Wyoming, where speed limits reach 80 mph, may not be speeding as often as drivers in poorly graded New England states, where speed limits on highways peak at 65 mph, they may still be driving faster.
The states that have safer drivers also tend to be much more rural. Driving across long distances on less well-tended roads is much more likely to lead to a fatal accident than urban traffic, where drivers are much less likely to reach life-threatening speeds. While erratic or inattentive driving might result in a fender-bender in suburban or city driving in Rhode Island or Connecticut, It could lead to loss of life while driving in remote parts of Alaska or Idaho, for example.
Ruffing further explained that unsafe cellphone use is lower in states in the West and Northwest likely because wireless coverage can be poor there. This prevents drivers from feeling the need to check their phones and risk their lives.
Phone use, driving at unsafe speeds, and erratic driving — those elements measured by EverDrive — have all been shown to affect the level of risk one takes while driving. But so have factors like drunk driving and seat belt use. On those two measures, states with good grades from EverDrive for safety are less consistent. In fact, alcohol is a factor in a high share of traffic fatalities in many of the best graded states on our list. For example, alcohol accounted for 45% of all traffic deaths in North Dakota in 2016, compared to the 28% of traffic fatalities related to drunk driving nationwide. North Dakota receives a better grade from EverDrive than all but a few states.
The states with the safest drivers are ranked based on their score in the “EverDrive Safe Driving Report 2016-2017.” EverQuote, an online car insurance shopping service, produces EverDrive, an app that allows drivers to monitor their driving habits, including phone use, speeding, risky braking, acceleration, and turning by measuring phone movement and use. The report covers driving habits of roughly 140,000 app users in 50 states, covering 2.7 million trips and 230 million miles of driving. Using data from app users, EverQuote grades the drivers of each state based on those measures of safety.
Data on alcohol-related traffic fatalities came from the NHTSA, and are for 2016. Estimated seat belt use, as well as traffic fatality data per 100 million miles driven came from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit organization funded by auto insurers. Some states on EverDrive’s ranking were tied, and considerations like seat belt use, roadside fatalities, and other measures related to highway safety were used to break ties.