What’s the most dangerous state to drive in? Don’t get behind the wheel in Montana. The state has 22.6 traffic fatalities per 100,000 people, double the national average. That number comes from data crunched by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
Sivak and Schoettle’s study compares road deaths with fatalities from the five leading causes of death in the U.S. The big surprise is that road deaths aren’t all that common. The average is 10.4 fatalities per 100,000 population, which isn’t even half the body count racked up by Alzheimer’s disease (26.8). At the top of the heap, with a kill rate of 193.3 fatalities per 100,000, is heart disease. The other top killers are cancer (185), lung disease (47.2), and stroke (40.8).
Montana also tops the chart when road deaths are shown as a proportion of all deaths within a state–2.4%–tied for first with North Dakota. And at the bottom of the list, is Washington, D.C., with 3.1 road deaths per 100,000 population, or just 0.4% of all deaths. This, points out CityLab, is down to D.C. being entirely urban, with no space for drunken yahoos to careen down the highway in a pickup.
In fact, the East Coast (along with the Northwest) seems to be the safest spot, car-wise, likely thanks to greater population density in its mostly urban areas. New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Ohio are all at the bottom of the list, with under 1% of deaths caused by cars.
Another correlation is between death rates and maximum speed limits (shockingly, states with higher limits suffer more fatalities), and GDP. That is, the poorer states have more dangerous roads.
The rates, says CityLab, also follow political affiliation, with higher death rates in conservative states than in liberal ones. Technological prowess also figures in, with more tech-savvy people being less likely to have accidents. These correlations, though, are just that. The mere fact of being a right-wing voter doesn’t necessarily make you more likely to die on the road. It’s more that dense urban centers with low speed limits tend to harbor more liberals.
Still, if you’re planning a bike tour, you should take this chart and use it to plan your route. The problem is that the chart also correlates with weather, with the sunniest states being the most fatal.