Around 40,000 Americans died in motor vehicle crashes in the United States last year. That preliminary estimate comes from the National Safety Council, a public safety and health nonprofit. While fatal accidents have become far less common in the United States over the last few decades thanks to improved regulations and safety features, they remain one of the leading causes of death, particularly for younger people.
To rank the safest and most dangerous states to drive in the United States, 24/7 Wall St. calculated the number of motor vehicle fatalities per 100,000 residents in 2018, based on accident figures from the National Safety Council and population estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program.
The rate of motor vehicle fatalities across the country is about 12 per 100,000 Americans, but that rate varies a great deal nationwide, from less than 5 per 100,000 in one state to over 20 per 100,000 in several others. The difference in the likelihood of dying from a car crash depends on a variety of conditions, including seat belt use, speed limits, drunk driving rates, and weather.
The types of road in a given state also make a major difference in whether a crash is an inconvenience or a life-threatening incident. While some of America’s cities are among the worst places to drive, fatal accidents are much more likely to occur in sparsely populated areas where speeds tend to be faster than in urban areas where speeds are slower. This fact likely helps explain why states like New Jersey and Rhode Island, which are two of the most densely-populated U.S. states, have among the fewest motor vehicle fatalities per capita, and why rural states like Montana and Wyoming have among the highest death rates.
To rank the safest and most dangerous states to drive in the United States, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed roadway motor vehicle fatality totals for 2018 collected by the National Safety Council from state Department of Transportation offices. The deaths recorded are only those that occur within 30 days of the accident. To determine the 2018 motor vehicle fatalities per 100,000 people, 24/7 Wall St. divided the number of fatalities by the July 2018 population estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program. The share of motor vehicle occupant fatalities who were not restrained by a seat belt at the time of the accident and the share of fatal motor vehicle crash deaths are from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and are for 2017.