Studies find states, cities, car brands with safest, worst drivers

Traffic safety is a fascinating subject, and the topic of reducing accidents is one that always starts a heated discussion. When the pandemic started picking up steam in early 2020, the roads were nearly empty as people went into lockdown, but accidents and fatalities surged simultaneously. Insurify and QuoteWizard, online insurance shopping tools, regularly conduct studies on driver safety, and a few of their most recent surveys yielded interesting results.

Insurify looked at the states with the best drivers and the car brands with the most accidents, covering this year to date. Interestingly, both categories are strongly associated with stereotypes and have a long list of jokes about car owners and drivers in certain states.

The state and vehicle brand studies included 4.6 million car insurance applications. They measured the percentage of applications from drivers with clean records or the number of at-fault accidents for drivers of each car brand. Nationally, 83.38% of drivers have a clean slate. Insurify notes that the two most common violations are speeding tickets (8.6% of drivers) and at-fault accidents (8.95% of drivers).

Which states have the best drivers? It’s time to bust some stereotypes, because states that regularly get ragged on the most for having terrible drivers are at the top of the list. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont are among the states with the best drivers. Michigan, home to the American auto industry, has the largest share of drivers with clean records. Though Insurify found that having more drivers with clean records does not correlate with fewer traffic deaths.

Car brands are nearly as frequently stereotyped for their drivers’ behavior. “BMW drivers never use their turn signals” or, “Toyota Prius owners hog the left lane” are just a few of the tired jokes on the subject. Like the state-level driving record data, the car brands with the most accidents in 2022 are not the ones people commonly associate with bad behavior on the roads.

First, a shout-out to the brand with the safest drivers: Volvo. Insurify says that just 5.81% of the automaker’s owners have had an at-fault accident, a full 37% lower than the national average.

Conversely, Ram truck drivers can proudly claim to have the largest percentage of at-fault accidents in 2022, followed closely by Subaru. Volkswagen, Mazda and Hyundai round out the top five.

To be fair, we're not talking about the whole vehicle line from the brands with the worst drivers. In each case, certain models tend to drag down the brand — WRX drivers have a far worse record than Outback or Ascent drivers. Other troublesome models on the list include the Ram 3500, VW Atlas, Mazda2, and Hyundai Elantra Coupe.

Insurify found a strong correlation between auto brands with drivers who speed and, not surprisingly, those with higher numbers of accidents. In other words, brands with heavy-footed drivers are more likely to have higher percentages of at-fault accidents.

QuoteWizard, a division of Lending Tree, conducted a study of 6 million car insurance quotes across the 70 largest cities in the country to find the best and worst drivers by city. The company considers a number of factors, including speeding tickets, citations, accidents and DUIs. Bakersfield, Calif., a city with a population just shy of 400,000 as of 2020, was the worst in the study. Driven by the worst DUI ranking in the study, Bakersfield "beat" Sacramento for the top (or rather bottom) spot in the study. QuoteWizard notes that the five worst-driving cities had high numbers of DUIs.

Most of the cities on the top 10 worst list are in California, with Baton Rouge, La., Jacksonville, Fla., and Salt Lake City, Utah, rounding it out.

Cities with the best drivers include Louisville, Ky., at No. 1, Hartford, Conn., at No. 2 and Little Rock, Ark., in third place.

Go to QuoteWizard's site for a deeper dive and to see where your city ranks.

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