last place ribbonA few months ago, I wrote a post about America’s best and worst drivers. Based on that study, drivers in Fort Collins, Colorado, were the least likely to get into crashes (and therefore considered “safest”). Drivers in Worcester, Massachusetts, got into the most crashes and were ranked worst.

But the number of crashes doesn’t necessarily correlate to the severity or outcome of crashes.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has broken down statistics from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System to show traffic fatalities by state, in terms of both population and miles driven. The national average of fatalities per 100,000 people is 10.3. The national average per million miles traveled is 1.11.

Which areas fared the best and worst?

Well, in terms of both population and miles traveled, Washington, D.C., had the fewest fatalities (3.1 deaths per 100,000 people, and 0.56 deaths per 100,000 miles traveled). The state with the most traffic deaths was Montana, with 22.6 fatalities per 100,000 people and 1.96 deaths per million miles traveled.

MontanaWhen you think about it, this isn’t surprising. Washington, D.C., is small and entirely urban. Crashes there might be frequent, but they’re probably fender-benders in congested traffic. Montana, on the other hand, is largely rural: 98% of their traffic fatalities were in rural areas. (Perhaps some lives could have been saved with quicker access to emergency responders or facilities?) It has varied terrain that includes mountainous roads and flat, wide-open spaces where people might be tempted to speed up. Montana also doesn’t have a ban on cell phone use or texting while driving.

Washington DCLet’s go back to that list of “worst drivers” based on frequency of crashes alone. The four worst cities were Washington, D.C., and three cities in Massachusetts. But as we just saw, Washington, D.C., has the lowest fatality rate. Second-lowest? Massachusetts. So crashes in those areas might be more common, but they’re not likely to be fatal.

The states/districts with the fewest fatalities per 100,000 population are:

  • 1. Washington, D.C. (3.1)
  • 2. Massachusetts (4.9)
  • 3. (tie) New Jersey and New York (6.1)
  • 5. Rhode Island (6.2)

The most fatalities per 100,000 people:

  • 5. (tie) Alabama and Oklahoma (17.6)
  • 4. West Virginia (17.9)
  • 2. (tie) Mississippi and North Dakota (20.5)
  • 1. Montana (22.6)

Keep in mind that several factors play into these statistics. Rural vs. urban areas, distracted driving laws, drunk driving laws, types of licenses, weather and road conditions, etc., so it’s not always possible to compare places as apples-to-apples. Don’t let statistics keep you from visiting Glacier National Park.

If you’re driving, don’t drink. Put down the cell phone and the mascara or razor. Obey the speed limit and slow down in bad weather. Have emergency provisions handy. And as always, use seat belts and appropriate child restraints.