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According to a New Study, This is the Safest State to Drive in

Nothing’s more frustrating than getting stuck in a traffic jam when you have places to be, you’re ready to get a move on, and congestion simply doesn’t allow it. Multiply this by millions of individuals – all in a hurry – and you can find yourself in some pretty unsafe driving conditions, even without the added effects of bad weather and road issues. It is no surprise that some places are safer than others to drive in, but which states are the safest?

Which state is the safest to drive in?

Vehicles are driving in the morning in fog
Driving in fog – a safety hazard | Frank Rumpenhorst/picture alliance via Getty Images

A recent study by WalletHub concluded that Iowa is the safest state to drive in, followed by Tennessee, North Carolina, Texas, and Nebraska. If your state didn’t make the cut, not to worry. The United States ranks 7th in the world for the safest countries to drive in, so you are still in good hands. In order to determine the safest driving state, the conductors of the study based their study on four specific categories:

  1. Cost of Vehicle Ownership and Maintenance
  2. State Traffic and Infrastructure
  3. Driving Safety
  4. Access to Vehicles and Maintenance

The data for each of these categories were compiled and analyzed to rank each of the 50 states using a targeted algorithm. Below is a quick overview of each of the categories that factored into WalletHub’s research and analysis.

Vehicle ownership and maintenance

The costs of vehicle ownership and maintenance counted for 30 points out of 100 in WalletHub’s ranking process. This category included average gas prices, annual car insurance pricing, annual maintenance costs, and additional vehicle operating costs caused by traffic congestion, poor roads, and accidents. When taken separately, the top states for this category alone include Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina, Indiana, and Georgia.

Traffic congestion and infrastructure

The second category taken into account was traffic congestion and road infrastructure. This category was weighed on the same scale as vehicle ownership and maintenance, with 30 out of 100 points. This category includes a broad range of factors, including peak rush hour traffic, average commute time, number of roadway miles driven per 1,000 people, and the increase of vehicle travel on highways between 2000 and 2017. 

Both road and bridge infrastructure quality was taken into consideration. The study also included weather conditions in this category, with an in-depth analysis of the number of days with precipitation, ice, low temperatures, wind, and hail. States that came out on top in this category were Wyoming, Idaho, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Montana. Unsurprisingly, the states that ranked highest in this category have lower annual precipitation and lower populations than many other U.S. states.

Road safety

Overall traffic safety was a major player in the study, accounting for another 30 points of 100. The road safety category included a broader range of factors, including traffic violations, roadway fatalities, strictness of traffic laws, instances of theft and larceny, uninsured drivers, and animal-related accidents. All of these aspects of roadway safety influenced the results for this category, though some, such as increased traffic fatality rates, carried more weight than, for example, DUI punishment leniency. The top states for road safety were Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, California, and Nevada.

Vehicle access and maintenance

The final category for this study received less weight than the others, only accounting for 10 of 100 points. Access to vehicles and maintenance took into account the number of car-related businesses that enhanced driver access to vehicles and services, including car dealerships, refueling stations, parking areas, and auto repair shops. The states who ranged at the top for vehicle access and maintenance were California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois.

Multiple factors contribute to the rankings

As this study makes clear, a lot more than basic traffic laws and safety go into making roads safe for drivers. While a state can rank high on commute time and road conditions, it may be significantly lower when it comes to vehicle repair access and traffic violations. The study provides not only a comprehensive ranking of safety by state, but it also offers a fascinating insight into the different aspects of overall vehicle safety throughout the US.