Most careless drivers by state
We have all witnessed the unpredictable nature of road rage, but careless drivers are also dangerous to everyone on the road. Bankrate’s editorial team ranked each state in the country to see which states have the most careless drivers. Mississippi came out on top. In fact, Southern states, on average, have more careless drivers than the rest of the country. On the other side of the equation, Massachusetts’ drivers appear to be the most careful overall, so you can rest a little easier if you’re driving in the New England state.
So, where does your state rank when it comes to careless driving? And how did we determine what constitutes careless driving?
The most careless drivers by state
- The five most careless driving states — Mississippi, South Carolina, New Mexico, Arizona and Louisiana — are all in the Southern region of the U.S.
- Of the five states with the least careless (or most careful) drivers — Massachusetts, Utah, New York, Iowa and Maine — three are in the Northeast.
- Of the remaining states in the top ten least careless driving states, two are in the Northeast, and three are in the Midwest.
- Certain states are better suited to promote and reward good driving behavior. Our research indicates there is a correlation between how careless a state’s drivers are and how much it costs on average to purchase auto insurance in that state.
State-by-state breakdown of careless drivers
To determine the most and least careless states for driving, Bankrate analyzed 2021 car insurance rate data from Quadrant Information Services, three separate studies on careless driving in the U.S. and NHTSA statistics for alcohol-related and overall traffic fatalities in each state. Here’s what we found.
|State||Overall careless driving rank (1=most careless drivers; 50=least careless drivers)||Composite ranking*||Annual average cost of car insurance ranking
(1=least expensive; 50=most expensive)
* Based on combining separate ranking studies of all 50 states based upon careless driving patterns.
States with the most careless drivers
Based on our data review, Mississippi, South Carolina, New Mexico, Arizona and Louisiana lead the pack with the most careless drivers. All of these states are located in the Southeast and Southwest. Generally, they reflect poor records for driving fatalities and instances of driving while intoxicated, two of the significant indicators we found to contribute to overall careless driving.
Higher car insurance premiums seem to generally contribute to the overall careless driving rankings, probably because car insurance tends to cost more in places where car insurance companies are more likely to have to pay out claims. Louisiana, Arizona and Mississippi also rank among the 25 most expensive states for car insurance on average. If you live in these states, though, keep in mind that because many variables determine the cost of auto insurance, it is still possible to find cheap car insurance.
Mississippi ranked as the top state for the most careless drivers in the country in our study, consistent with the pattern we see across the South and Sunbelt. Strikingly, from 2015 through 2019, Mississippi had approximately twice as many traffic fatalities per 100,000 people as the nation as a whole.
Additionally, Mississippi has one of the highest percentages of uninsured drivers in the country. That’s likely one of the reasons that, despite a very low relative cost of living, the state’s average annual premium for car insurance is in the upper third of all states.
South Carolina is the second-worst state on our list for careless driving. Like Mississippi, South Carolina also had almost twice as many auto fatalities from 2015 through 2019 as the national average per 100,000 people. The state ranked second for the highest rate of fatalities in 2019.
Additionally, for this same period, South Carolina experienced a significantly higher percentage of alcohol-related driving fatalities than the nation as a whole. However, it appears this trend has improved slightly in recent years. The average cost of car insurance in South Carolina barely breaks into the top 25 least expensive states despite its poor reputation for careless driving.
New Mexico was among the top five states for car-related fatalities in 2019, with 20.2 deaths per 100,000 people. Another indicator that New Mexico drivers are among the most careless is that New Mexico has an estimated 21.8% of its drivers operating vehicles without insurance.
Despite these poor driving patterns and lack of diligence in following the law, New Mexico still has the lowest average annual car insurance costs among the top five states for the most careless drivers. In 2021, New Mexico drivers pay an average premium of $385 per year for minimum coverage car insurance, while the average annual premium for full coverage in New Mexico is $1,419.
Arizona ranks high in recent years for the number of traffic fatalities per 100,000 miles driven, with scores of 1.53 and 1.40 in 2018 and 2019, respectively. These figures are well above the national averages of 1.14 and 1.11 for these years and almost three times as high as the scores for the states with the fewest fatalities.
However, almost 90% of drivers are insured in Arizona, and the average cost of car insurance hovers right in the middle among all 50 states, despite a high instance of careless driving patterns.
In 2019, Louisiana had 15.6 auto-related fatalities per 100,000 people and 1.42 deaths per 100,000 miles driven, an unfavorable comparison with the national scores in these two categories of 11 and 1.11.
In this case, Louisiana’s poor record for reckless driving is directly reflected in the cost of auto insurance, as the state ranks as the most expensive state on average for car insurance in 2021.
States with the least careless drivers
At the other end of the spectrum, the five states with the fewest careless driver patterns are Massachusetts, Utah, New York, Iowa and Maine. Most of these states, along with the five additional states that round out the top ten with the fewest careless drivers, are in the Northeast and Midwest.
Massachusetts comes in as our least careless driving state, and provides a stark contrast in car accident fatalities compared with the five worst states for careless driving. And even though the cost of living is high, good driving patterns have helped Massachusetts stay among the most affordable states to purchase car insurance.
In 2019, Massachusetts had only 4.8 traffic fatalities per 100,000 population, compared to the national score of 11 fatalities per 100,000 population. Viewing this in terms of deaths per 100,000 miles driven puts Massachusetts in a favorable light as well, with 0.51 deaths in Massachusetts compared to 1.11 per 100,000 miles driven nationally.
Utah’s driving fatality percentages for the period between 2015 and 2019 were slightly higher than those recorded in Massachusetts but nevertheless well below the national average. Not surprisingly and likely at least partly due to cultural and religious influences, Utah has among the lowest percentage of alcohol-related fatalities.
These positive driving patterns are reflected in the average cost of car insurance in the state as well. Utah drivers pay, on average in 2021, $1,306 per year for full coverage auto insurance and $528 per year for minimum coverage.
New York is a striking example of contrasts. Despite a perhaps undeserved reputation for rudeness, the state is near the top of many lists for safe drivers. In 2019, there were only 4.8 traffic-related fatalities per 100,000 population and 0.75 fatalities per 100,000 miles driven compared to higher scores of 11 and 1.11 in each category nationally.
Unfortunately, this positive record does not translate into low premiums for car insurance. New York ranks as the third most expensive state in the nation to purchase car insurance, but that is to be expected with the high cost of living in the state, especially in New York City.
Iowa ranks as the fourth-best state for safe versus careless driving, and the cost of car insurance in the state reflects this good driving behavior. Iowa is the 10th least expensive state to purchase car insurance in 2021.
It is noteworthy that Iowa is only slightly below the national average for traffic fatalities per 100,000 population (10.6) and fatalities per 100,000 miles driven (1.0). However, Iowa has ranked consistently better than the national percentage of alcohol-related traffic fatalities from 2015-2019, though the difference is modest.
Maine is the least expensive state to purchase auto insurance. You can buy a minimum coverage car insurance policy in 2021 in Maine for the surprisingly low average annual premium of $294, and a full coverage policy will only cost $965, on average.
Maine does appear to have an issue with alcohol-related traffic fatalities, however. While the state scores only slightly higher than the national percentage average, the rate of alcohol fatalities is well above the rates for the best states in this category.
Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Connecticut, and. Minnesota
These five states get an honorable mention, ranking sixth through tenth for states with the least careless drivers. These states also reflect the overall safer driving patterns we noticed among states in the Northeast and Midwest.
Ohio appears to benefit from this ranking by offering the second lowest average auto in premiums in 2021. The others do not follow suit, with premiums averaging in the middle of the pack. It is worth noting that Minnesota was ranked as the fourth state with the least rude drivers in the nation for Bankrate’s study of the rudest drivers by state.
Careless driving is often difficult to measure as there are many variables that go into classifying states as more or less careless when it comes to driving. Certainly, specific measurable factors such as alcohol-related and overall traffic fatality rates are important factors. Additionally, there appears to be a clear correlation between the region of the country your state is located in and how careless your state is for driving. Southern states seem to have more than their fair share of careless drivers, while safer driving seems to be more prevalent in the Northeast and Midwest.
To determine the ranking of states for most and least careless driving, Bankrate examined three separate data studies related to careless driving:
- Here Are the Worst Drivers In America, Ranked By State (inc.com)
- The worldpopulationreview.com
From these studies, we prepared a composite ranking of all states in terms of driver carelessness.
We also reviewed and based our conclusions upon Traffic Safety Performance studies by NHTSA.gov for all 50 states. Finally, we compared our ranking to Bankrate’s ranking of the 50 states on the average annual cost of car insurance in 2021.
Quadrant Information Services Methodology
Bankrate utilizes Quadrant Information Services to analyze 2021 rates for all ZIP codes and carriers in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Quoted rates are based on a 40-year-old male and female driver with a clean driving record, good credit and the following full coverage limits:
- $100,000 bodily injury liability per person
- $300,000 bodily injury liability per accident
- $50,000 property damage liability per accident
- $100,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per person
- $300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per accident
- $500 collision deductible
- $500 comprehensive deductible
To determine minimum coverage limits, Bankrate used minimum coverages that meet each state’s requirements. Our base profile drivers own a 2019 Toyota Camry, commute five days a week and drive 12,000 miles annually.
These are sample rates and should only be used for comparative purposes.