Minnesotans might scoff at the notion, but for the third year in a row a car insurance website says the best drivers in the nation hail from Minnesota.
Compared with other states, Minnesota has relatively low rates of highway deaths, including those involving drunken driving, lack of seat belt use and distracted driving, making us the best motorists on the road, according to the study by Carinsurancecomparison.com.
Using data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the website, which allows people to compare insurance companies, took a look at fatal crashes and causes to rank each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
To come up with its rankings the analysis looked at each state’s fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, the degree to which motorists obeyed traffic signals and signs, seat belt usage, speeding, drunken driving and careless driving.
Minnesota led the pack with the lowest rate of fatal careless-driving crashes and third-lowest fatality rate per vehicle miles traveled — even though the number of deaths on state roads spiked to 411 last year and are on pace to equal or surpass that number this year. There were 361 traffic deaths in 2014, state records show.
Carinsurancecomparison.com assigned states a score ranging from 1 to 51 points in each category, with higher numbers given for better performance. States with the lowest combined score are deemed as having the worst drivers.
Minnesota ranked ninth best for wearing seat belts and obeying traffic signals, and 15th best in drunken driving.
But we do like to drive fast. The state was a mediocre 23rd — its lowest mark — for fatal wrecks attributed to speeding. Overall, Minnesota scored 202 points to handily beat runner-up Vermont with 188.
Minnesota’s score this year was lower than the 225 points it earned when it was first in the 2015 rankings and the 208 it earned in 2014.
On the other end of the scale, Louisiana and Texas shared the dubious honor of having the worst drivers. Louisiana was worst in the nation in the “failure to obey” category, while Texas ranked third-worst for drunken driving and ninth-worst for speeding and the fatality rate.
States with high rates of careless driving were most likely to have the worst drivers, the study’s authors said. It was the largest correlation between one category and a state’s final ranking.
The majority of careless driving is done by distracted drivers — people who drive while doing other activities that take their attention away from driving — the study said.
As the economy has improved, Americans are driving more and dying more. The number of vehicle miles traveled last year increased 3.5 percent from 2014. That is the largest percentage increase in more than 25 years, according to Federal Highway Administration figures.
That led to a sharp rise in traffic fatalities. The nation lost 35,092 people in traffic crashes in 2015, ending a five-decade trend of declining fatalities.
Early data show this year to be even deadlier.
According to the National Safety Council, motor vehicle deaths were 9 percent higher nationwide through the first six months of the year compared with 2015, and 18 percent higher than the same period in 2014.
“The data tell us that people die when they drive drunk, distracted or drowsy, or if they are speeding or unbuckled,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said in August when last year’s final fatality numbers were released.
“While there have been enormous improvements in many of these areas, we need to find new solutions to end traffic fatalities.”