Car accidents by state: Worst and best drivers

A Credit Karma Study

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In this study, we compiled data on numbers and types of fatal car accidents, insurance rates and populations to determine the state with the best drivers. (Click here for the full methodology.)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s latest data show there were 33,244 traffic fatalities in the United States in 2019. The most common type of accident involved another motor vehicle, followed by collisions with fixed objects.

According to our study, Massachusetts was the safest state for drivers and South Carolina was the most dangerous. Read on to see where your state falls on the list.

Overall ranking of states with the best and worst drivers

To find out which states had the best and worst drivers, we combined data for each state on average monthly car insurance premium, the number of people killed in car accidents every year, the total number of fatal crashes every year, and the alcohol-impaired driving fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

When all factors were combined, these were the top five safest states for motorists.

  1. Massachusetts
  2. Minnesota
  3. Hawaii
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Vermont

While the District of Columbia is not considered a state, if it were, it would be the second-safest state in the country for drivers.

These are the top five most dangerous states for drivers.

  1. South Carolina
  2. Wyoming
  3. Louisiana
  4. Montana
  5. Mississippi

The table that follows shows the rankings for each state in the main categories used in this study. In our rankings, lower is better. For example, Massachusetts is the overall safest state for drivers. It has the eighth-cheapest insurance cost, and it has the second-lowest number of accident-related fatalities and second-lowest number of fatal crashes. Massachusetts has the fewest number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities out of all 50 states.

Overall rankings by state

Overall rankStateInsurance cost rankCar accident fatalities rankFatal crashes rankAlcohol-impaired driving fatality rank
4New Hampshire3888
9New Jersey39454
14New York47116
21North Carolina2313234
23North Dakota9323129
24South Dakota12242445
27Rhode Island503330
37West Virginia31383941
45New Mexico22484746
50South Carolina38474848

For another way of looking at the data, check out our map of safest and most dangerous states for drivers.

Safest and most dangerous states for drivers

The map shows that northern states tend to be safer, while drivers tend to be more at risk in southern states all across the country.

Fatal car accidents by state

There are two ways to look at fatal car accidents by state: gross or per capita. The first is simply a raw total of the number of deadly car crashes, while the second reveals the rate at which these kinds of accidents happen.

Here are the five states with the highest number of fatal car accidents overall in 2019.

  1. California: 3,316
  2. Texas: 3,294
  3. Florida: 2,950
  4. Georgia: 1,377
  5. North Carolina: 1,284

Here are the five states with the fewest fatal car accidents in 2019.

  1. Vermont: 44
  2. Rhode Island: 53
  3. Alaska: 62
  4. South Dakota: 88
  5. New Hampshire: 90

What do all these states have in common? They’re in the top ten for most- and least-populous states, respectively.

States with larger populations are going to have more accidents because there are more people, but that might not necessarily translate into a higher accident rate. Let’s take Wyoming as an example. Wyoming is the least-populous state in the union, with a total population of 578,759. There were 120 fatal car accidents in Wyoming in 2019, with a per capita rate of 0.02073% of deadly accidents. That translates into 20.73 fatal car accidents per 100,000 people in Wyoming in 2019 — the highest rate in the nation.

By contrast, California has 8.39 fatal car accidents per 100,000 people. Even though California has more deadly accidents overall, you’re less likely to experience a fatal crash in California than in Wyoming.

Here are the five states with the highest number of fatal accidents per 100,000 people.

  1. Wyoming: 20.73
  2. Mississippi: 19.52
  3. South Carolina: 17.91
  4. New Mexico: 17.55
  5. Alabama: 17.46

Here are the five states with the fewest fatal accidents per 100,000 people.

  1. New York: 4.50
  2. Massachusetts: 4.66
  3. Rhode Island: 5.00
  4. New Jersey: 5.91
  5. Minnesota: 5.90

One thing to note: The District of Columbia was omitted from the rankings because it’s technically not a state. If it were, D.C. would have the lowest gross and per capita fatal car accidents out of any state. In 2019, there were only 22 deadly car crashes, with a rate of 0.00313% accidents per capita. That means for every 100,000 individuals living in D.C., 3.13 were involved in a fatal car accident in 2019.

Fatal car accidents by state: Change over time

The rate of fatal car accidents has changed over the years. Some states have become safer, while some have become more dangerous.

The table that follows has the states with the largest decreases in deadly auto collisions over the last 10 years.

Largest decrease in fatal auto collisions: 2009 to 2019

Fatal crashes – 2009
Fatal crashes – 2019Percent change in accidentsPercent change in population
Rhode Island7653-30.26%0.54%
West Virginia325247-24.00%-3.01%
North Dakota11691-21.55%14.60%
South Dakota11288-21.43%9.91%
New York1,069876-18.05%0.76%

Vermont led the pack with a decrease of 36.23%, but New York had the greatest decline in absolute numbers. There were 193 fewer fatal crashes in 2019 than in 2009 in New York. It’s unclear what led to the decrease in accidents, though it seems unrelated to population change.

Some states saw an increase in deadly auto accidents.

Largest increase in fatal auto collisions: 2009 to 2019

StateFatal crashes – 2009Fatal crashes – 2019Percent change in accidentsPercent change in population

Oregon had the largest percent change, while California had the biggest increase in raw total crashes. Similar to the list of states with decreases, population change doesn’t seem to be strongly correlated with an increase in accidents.

On the whole, the U.S. experienced a 7.72% increase in fatal auto accidents between 2009 and 2019.

Average car insurance premiums by state

Insurers are likely using a variety of factors to determine car insurance premiums, like laws related to insurance coverage, age, gender, type of car, location, crime rates, and individuals’ driving records. That means that we can use premiums to help get a handle on how risky insurers think it is to have a car in a particular state.

Insurify provided the average monthly insurance premium for all their users in each state based on data from July and August of 2021.

Here are the top five states with the highest average monthly car insurance premiums in 2021.

  1. Rhode Island: $376
  2. Michigan: $370
  3. Georgia: $354
  4. New York: $349
  5. Louisiana: $333

Here are the top five states with the lowest average monthly car insurance premiums in 2021.

  1. Hawaii: $122
  2. North Carolina: $132
  3. New Hampshire: $134
  4. Vermont: $135
  5. Maine: $141

Hawaii’s average car insurance premium is less than half of Rhode Island’s, the most expensive state.

Car insurance premiums vs. fatal car accidents

In our data set, car insurance premiums and per capita fatal car accidents aren’t correlated, which means that we can’t use the rate of deadly crashes to predict car insurance premiums.

This is likely because insurance agencies use a mosaic of factors when deciding how much to charge in premiums. Though traffic fatalities might be in the mix, there could be other components that would influence rates.

Tips for lowering your car insurance costs

Insurance costs can be a drag. If you’re looking for way to lower your premiums, the suggestions below might help. But before you get started, make sure you understand your state’s insurance requirements.

  • Shop around with different insurance providers to compare rates. You can use an auto insurance cost-comparison tool like Credit Karma’s.
  • Some insurers offer multipolicy discounts, which means bundling different types of insurance like auto and home might net you some savings.
  • Ask your insurer if it has any other special auto insurance discounts available. Some companies offer a dizzying variety of discounts to drivers for all sorts of things, like having safe driving records, good grades and extra safety features on the car.
  • Having good credit might help lower your car insurance premiums. Auto insurance scores may factor into your rates.
  • If you don’t drive your car a lot, you might consider switching to an insurer that offers milage-based rates. Or, consider reducing your coverage on vehicles that you rarely drive.
  • You could switch to a higher deductible. The downside of this is that you’ll have to pay more money out of pocket if you get into an accident or damage your car.


To identify the states with the best and worst drivers, we analyzed all 50 U.S. states using the criteria below. States were given a score for each factor. Scores were combined and states were then ranked by final scores.

  1. Average monthly car insurance premium by state, sourced from Insurify, with data collected on July 26, 2022.
  2. Number of persons killed per year by car accidents, 2019, by state, sourced from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  3. Number of fatal car crashes per year, 2019, by state, sourced from the NHTSA.
  4. Total state population, 2019, sourced from the Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. Total state population, 2009 and 2014, sourced from the Census Bureau. State populations were used to calculate the number of fatalities per capita (as a percentage) and number of fatal crashes per capita (as a percentage) in each state.
  5. Alcohol-impaired driving fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT), 2020, by state, sourced from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


About the author: Gaby Lapera is a researcher and writer at Credit Karma and a personal finance expert. She also spends time working on investing and science communication. Gaby graduated with a master's degree in biological anthropolo… Read more.