Out of Control: The States with the Most Accidents in 2021

A multi-vehicle accident in an urban area.

Motor vehicle accidents can happen anywhere. In these states, however, drivers are more prone to mistakes on the road than anywhere else in the country.

Getting behind the wheel of a car will always carry some risk, but doing so in the United States is particularly hazardous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that about six million motor vehicle accidents occur in the U.S. every year. To put this in perspective, that translates to a crash approximately every 6 seconds. Accidents in the U.S. are also more dangerous than those in other developed countries: a traffic accident in the U.S. is 50 percent more likely to have fatal consequences than a crash in Western Europe, Canada, or Australia. 

Unfortunately, car crash deaths in the United States are on the rise after a decade of relatively steady rates, according to the NHTSA. Fatal accidents increased by over 7 percent in 2020 compared to the prior year, despite Americans driving 13 percent fewer miles overall, a change driven largely by lockdowns imposed in response to COVID-19. It appears that emptier roads made some drivers less inclined to follow traffic laws, as the NHTSA found speeding to be the single most likely contributor to this sudden increase in traffic deaths. Fatality rates did not rise equally across the country, however. New Mexico, Delaware, Maine, and Wyoming all ranked among the states with the greatest increase in traffic deaths in recent years. 

Though these recent trends are cause for concern, some states have already been spurred to take action in lowering car accident rates. Washington, D.C. and New York City, to name two examples, have implemented measures in the past several years to lower speed limits and protect pedestrians and cyclists. The results are encouraging: in the District of Columbia, the traffic fatality rate dropped by 66 percent between 2000 and 2021 and did not rise significantly during COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, according to a recent study in the Journal of Transport and Health. That said, car accidents continue to be a leading cause of death nationwide. With this in mind, the data science team at Insurify analyzed its database of over four million car insurance applications to identify which states have the most accident-prone drivers in 2021.

A heat map of the United States showing the at-fault accident in every state in 2021.

Insights

  • National averages. Across all 50 states, the average percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident on their record is 10.18 percent. Additionally, 6.31 percent of U.S. drivers have a no-fault accident on their record. Some of these accidents unfortunately lead to traffic fatalities, which occur at a rate of 1.11 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles driven across the United States.
  • Bad things (sometimes) happen to good drivers. Getting into an accident that you did not cause is one of the most serious and frustrating events that can occur while driving. Even if no one is harmed, your insurance premium might still increase, despite the fact the collision was not your fault. Wisconsin drivers might be the most frustrated in the country, as 8.78 percent of motorists in the state have a no-fault accident on record, the highest in the nation. Maine, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey follow close behind to round out the country’s five highest no-fault accident rates at 8.34 percent, 8.11 percent, 8.10 percent, and 8.05 percent, respectively.
  • Accident rates are not correlated with traffic fatalities. While there is no denying some states’ drivers cause accidents more often than others, Insurify data scientists found no significant correlation between a state’s accident rate and its rate of traffic fatalities. Massachusetts proves a striking example: its motorists have the highest percentage of at-fault accidents on record in the nation, but its rate of 0.51 traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled is by far the lowest in the country, at less than half the national average. 

Bar chart showing the 10 states with the highest at-fault accident rates in 2021.

Methodology

Data scientists at Insurify, a platform to compare auto insurance quotes, referred to their database of over 4 million car insurance applications to identify the states with the most at-fault accidents. 

When applying for car insurance, applicants disclose their state of residence and any past accidents or violations on their driving record, including both at-fault and no-fault accidents. 

Analysts compared the number of drivers in each state with an at-fault accident on record to the total driving population to determine which states had the highest proportion of at-fault accidents. Statewide rates of no-fault accidents were also derived from Insurify’s database using the same methodology. Data scientists considered all Insurify applications from January 2020 through August 2021. Traffic fatality rates were provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) latest State by State Fatality Facts report. 

Top 10 States with the Most Accidents

10. Utah

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 11.34%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior no-fault accident: 4.88%
  • Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 0.75

From the slopes of Park City to the stunning Zion National Park, Utah’s natural beauty is a feast for the eyes. Utah’s drivers, however, might want to keep their eyes better focused on the road, as their at-fault accident rate is the tenth-highest in the country at 11 percent higher than the national average. On the other hand, the state’s percentage of drivers with a prior no-fault accident and its rate of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled are both well below the national averages.

9. Rhode Island

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 11.35%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior no-fault accident: 6.68%
  • Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 0.75

The first of several New England states on this list, Rhode Island has an at-fault accident rate that is 12 percent higher than the national average. But while the Ocean State stands out for its picturesque sandy shores and charming seaside towns, it is, thankfully, merely average in the number of its drivers who report being involved in an accident that was not their fault. And as with Utah, the collisions Rhode Island motorists do cause have not led to as many traffic deaths as might be expected; the state’s number of traffic fatalities per vehicle mile traveled is 32 percent below the national average.

8. Georgia

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 11.78%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior no-fault accident: 5.71%
  • Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 1.12

Georgia, the only newcomer in the rankings, has the eighth-highest rate of car accidents in the nation in 2021. The Peach State earns this dubious achievement with an at-fault accident rate that is 16 percent higher than the national average. Reckless Peach State drivers are at least not ruining their neighbors’ day too often, as a below-average share of Georgia motorists report a prior no-fault accident on their record. The state’s traffic death rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled is, meanwhile, almost exactly the national average.

7. Maine

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 12.05%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior no-fault accident: 8.34%
  • Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 1.06

With an at-fault accident rate nearly 1.2 times greater than the national average, the Pine Tree State ranks seventh on the list of most accident-prone states. Given Maine’s low population density, it may come as a surprise that drivers in the state also report no-fault accidents at the third-highest rate in the nation. At the same time, the state’s rate of fatal car accidents per vehicle mile driven is slightly below the national average.

6. New Hampshire

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 12.09%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior no-fault accident: 7.06%
  • Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 0.73

Out on the open road, liberty-loving New Hampshire is somewhat notorious for being the only state in the country to have no seatbelt law for adults. Coupled with the fact that Granite State drivers report at-fault and no-fault accidents 19 percent and 12 percent more often than average, respectively, it would seem that these conditions would create a high rate of serious traffic collisions. Yet, New Hampshire’s rate of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled is actually 34 percent lower than the national average, relegating  the state to fifth-lowest overall.

5. South Carolina

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 13.11%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior no-fault accident: 7.08%
  • Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 1.73

Though Florida drivers’ penchant for headline-grabbing antics may give the impression that they are the most accident-prone motorists in the South, that title truly belongs to the Palmetto State. On average, over 13 in 100 South Carolina drivers report having an at-fault accident on record, a proportion that is not only 29 percent higher than the national average, but also more than 8 percent higher than sixth-place New Hampshire. The state’s share of drivers reporting a no-fault accident is also above average, and the Palmetto State has by far the highest number of traffic fatalities per vehicle mile traveled in the country, coming in at 56 percent above the national average. It appears South Carolina drivers would be wise to take it slow and keep things under control the next time they hit the road.

4. Maryland

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 13.22%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior no-fault accident: 8.10%
  • Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 0.87

With its drivers reporting at-fault accidents 30% more often than the national average, Maryland slots in at number four in the rankings. The state’s high prevalence of accident-prone drivers also endangers their fellow motorists; Maryland drivers are 29% more likely than average to report a no-fault accident on their record. Lastly, like New Hampshire, Maryland is a state with high at-fault and no-fault accident rates yet a low rate of overall traffic deaths. The Old Line State’s number of fatal crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled is 22 percent below the national average.

3. Ohio

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 13.28%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior no-fault accident: 7.11%
  • Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 1.01

While there are only two Midwestern states in the top ten for accident-prone driving, they do claim two of the three top spots. Ohio ranks third overall, with an at-fault accident rate that is 30 percent higher than average. The state’s no-fault accident rate is also 13 percent higher than the national average. This could be due to the fact that multi-vehicle accidents are more common in crowded, urban areas, and Ohio boasts three major U.S. cities in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati.

2. Nebraska

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 13.28%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior no-fault accident: 7.32%
  • Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 1.17

Nebraska is the second Midwestern state on this list, and also second overall for the rate at which its drivers report at-fault accidents. In fact, over 13 percent of Cornhusker drivers have a prior at-fault accident on their record, a proportion that is 1.3 times the national average. Nebraska also ranks above average in its rate of no-fault motor vehicle crashes and traffic deaths, so, needless to say, the state is a fairly risky place to get behind the wheel.

1. Massachusetts

  • Percentage of drivers with a prior at-fault accident: 13.34%
  • Percentage of drivers with a prior no-fault accident: 7.31%
  • Number of traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 0.51

Massachusetts’s accident statistics present a tale of two extremes. On the one hand, Bay State drivers report at-fault traffic accidents at the highest rate in the nation, exceeding the national average by 31 percent. The state reports no-fault accidents at a rate 16% above average as well. The Bay State’s number of traffic deaths per 100 million miles traveled is, however, by far the lowest in the country, at  less than half the national average. A potential explanation for this apparent contradiction is Massachusetts’s high population density. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, Massachusetts is the third-densest state in the country by population, which means accidents there are more likely to occur on busier roads. On city streets and other high-trafficked roads, collisions can be common, and often involve more than one vehicle. However, these accidents also generally occur at lower speeds, reducing the risk of serious injury and death.

If you have any questions or comments about this article or would like to request the data, please contact insights@insurify.com.

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