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The 9 deadliest driving behaviors, by the numbers

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The good news is that over the past 10 years, there has been an almost 25 percent reduction in the number of fatalities on the nation’s roadways. 

If you’re like most of us, when you see or read about a fatal crash you’re left wondering what went wrong. Was someone driving impaired? Did the weather contribute to the mishap? Why did the accident happen at this particular location? Was someone not paying attention or distracted?

[Related: Safety first: Here are the 10 vehicles with the lowest rates of driver deaths]

Using data from NHTSA’s Fatal Accident Reporting System, the Auto Insurance Center has created the following graphics to illustrate the circumstances of each fatal crash occurring between 2009 and 2013 nationwide.


Fatal Crash Causes – Overview Via: Auto Insurance Center

Dangerous driving behaviors that cause the most fatal crashes by state 

The map above breaks down the top driver behaviors that led to deadly crashes by state. What caused the highest number of fatal crashes from 2009-2013 across the nation? Failure to stay in the proper lane. Failure to yield to the right of way takes the top spot in six states. Improper turns are a big problem in California.

Sadly, serious collisions are often a result of ordinary mistakes.

Note: ”Operating without required equipment” covers infractions such as driving with bad breaks, not using a seatbelt, or riding a motorcycle without a helmet.


Fatal Crash Causes – By State Via: Auto Insurance Center

Top 5 states most affected by 8 of the main fatal crash causes

The graphic above shows the top five states with fatalities for each of eight driver behaviors. Arkansas is home to the most deadly reckless drivers, but Indiana saw the most-deaths-per-capita results from road rage. Delaware was No. 1 for deaths resulting from changing lanes unsafely. Wyoming suffers most from drivers drifting out of their assigned lane unintentionally.

South Dakota is where the most deaths occur from police chases. Drivers in Mississippi have the most failure to yield right of way deadly accidents. In Montana, failure to obey signs is a problem. And look out while driving in West Virginia, the home of the most deaths for driving on the wrong side of the road.


Fatal Crash Causes – Driving Drunk Via: Auto Insurance Center

Drunk driving fatalities by state 

It’s difficult to find a cab or other public transportation in the Western states with the highest rates of drunk driving fatalities. But in the urban areas of Washington D.C., New York, and Boston, the ability to grab a cab or the subway keeps the drunk driving fatalities lower. Utah, where restrictive liquor laws and a large Mormon population of non-drinkers reside, is the exception among the states with the least drunk driving fatalities. 


Fatal Crash Causes – Crosswinds vs Sleet Via: Auto Insurance Center

Speeding as the causes for fatal accidents

Speeding is particularly appealing and deadly to drivers moving along the wide open spaces and highways of Montana and Wyoming.


Fatal Crash Causes – Snow vs Rain Via: Auto Insurance Center

Environmental conditions: Snow vs. rain

We know that challenging weather conditions increase our risks while driving on roadways. Across the U.S., rain causes more fatal accidents than snow. However, in the snowy Rocky Mountain region of the country in states like Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming, snow causes more fatal vehicle accidents than rain. 


Fatal Crash Causes – Snow vs Fog Via: Auto Insurance Center

Weather conditions: Snow vs. fog

When comparing snow versus fog, more fatal crashes are caused by snow across the nation. Not surprisingly, in warm coastal states, fog is a bigger danger. 


Fatal Crash Causes – Crosswinds vs Sleet Via: Auto Insurance Center

Inclement weather: Crosswinds vs. sleet

Sleet is a bigger killer in most of the U.S., but crosswinds are a more likely problem from California to Colorado as well as in sunny Florida.