Operating a motor vehicle is a responsibility that some do not take seriously.
We’ve all seen that driver who weaves dangerously in and out of traffic on the freeway, or who tailgates mercilessly…perhaps some of us have even been those drivers (though we’d rather not admit it).
In the United States, reckless driving is a serious traffic violation. Specific definitions of reckless driving vary by state, but in general, reckless driving, also called “driving to endanger” or “reckless operation,” is defined as driving with wanton disregard to the rules and regulations of the road. Reckless driving can be tacked onto or used in place of other offenses, such as speeding, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or running a red light.
Associated with impulsive personality traits by psychologists, reckless driving can result in accidents, wrecks, injury, and in some cases, death. Penalties include heavy fines, possible license suspension, and even incarceration for up to a year. Reckless driving also affects insurance rates and can cause them to increase significantly for up to five years. That is why it’s so important to compare car insurance every six months. You never know which insurance company will look the most favorably on your driving history and offer the best quote for you.
Curious to see if some states are home to higher concentrations of reckless drivers than others, researchers at Insurify analyzed data from over 1.9 million drivers in their database.
To determine which states have the most reckless drivers per capita, data scientists at Insurify, an auto insurance quotes comparison website, pulled the numbers from their database of over 1.9 million car insurance applications. Drivers applying for car insurance quotes at Insurify input personal and vehicle information, as well as their driving history, which includes any prior convictions of reckless driving on their record. Insurify’s data scientists also calculated the concentration of police officers against registered drivers in each state using the latest demographic information from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Penalty and incarceration information was gathered from drivinglaws.org.
Nebraska may not be the worst state when it comes to reckless driving, but it’s certainly not the best. At number 10 on our list, Nebraska has 34 percent more reckless drivers than the national average, even with significantly fewer police officers per capita than most states.
New Jersey is one of the most lenient states on our list, at least in terms of maximum punishment for reckless driving. Keep in mind, though, that a reckless driving conviction will seriously jack up insurance premiums. And of course, reckless driving is still a serious traffic violation in New Jersey and is classified as a criminal offense.
New Hampshire is known for having some of the lowest taxes in the nation, but it certainly won’t be recognized for having the lowest rates of reckless drivers. A rate of almost 1.5 times as many reckless drivers as the national average lands New Hampshire solidly within the top 10 on our list.
Washington’s penalties for reckless driving are the most severe on our list, with up to one year in jail and/or up to $5,250 in fines. Despite the threat of such heavy sentencing, drivers in this state continue to flout the rules of the road. Seattle’s traffic congestion is ranked the worst in the country (according to a Texas A&M University study), which probably doesn’t help.
South Carolina comes in sixth place on our list, with twice as many reckless drivers as the national average calling this state their home. Even though South Carolina metes out the lightest punishment of all the states on our list, the consequences of unsafe driving are ever-present: this state has the most driver deaths per miles traveled, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Beautiful and wild, Montana has arguably some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country. Matters on Montana’s roads, however, are not so pretty. Not only does Montana have more than twice as many reckless drivers as the national average, but also, this state is notorious for DUIs. According to the IIHS’ latest data, over 35 percent of fatal motor vehicle crashes involved drivers operating under the influence.
Wyoming may be the least densely populated of the continental United States with only six people per square mile, but this mountainous state is home to its fair share of reckless drivers. Wyoming is the only state on our list that includes a surcharge on top of any fines given for reckless driving. This additional cost can be prohibitive: depending on the amount a reckless driver is fined, he or she may end up paying significantly more than that amount due to surcharges.
Home to Mount Rushmore and to nearly 50 reckless drivers per 10k drivers, South Dakota brings us to the top three. This state also comes in third place on another measure: with a possibility of one year in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines, South Dakota has the third toughest maximum sentence on our list.
At Insurify, we weren’t surprised to find North Dakota near the top of this list. Our data scientists ran a study earlier this year analyzing states with the worst drivers overall and found that North Dakota ranked number one, with almost 30 percent of drivers reporting a past driving incident.
Those who live in Virginia or who have driven through it before may not be surprised to see this state at the top of our list. Virginia is notorious for its speed traps—and also for drivers who love zipping down the left lane. The state’s law enforcement takes reckless driving very seriously: maximum punishment for reckless driving is one of the most severe on our list.
Insurify would like to recognize Texas as the state with the fewest reckless drivers. Rates of reckless drivers in The Lone Star State are at only a fraction of the national average. This might come as a surprise, given that sentencing for this offense is minimal. It goes to show that Texan drivers behave themselves for more reasons than just fear of punishment.
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