How good (or bad) are Michigan drivers?

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Are Michiganders good drivers? Some may argue based on their daily commute -- but the numbers tell a different story.

A new report by Car Insurance Comparison, using data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, shows the best and worst states for driving over the last few years.

It may surprise you to find out that Michigan is not even in the top ten for worst drivers. In fact, they're not even in the top 20.

Related: Report shows drop in Michigan's child poverty rate, but disparities among racial groups remain

The report ranks Michigan No. 42 for worst drivers. In other words, ninth best in the U.S.! (Right, tell that to the guy on I-696!)

While we may seems skeptical, the numbers tell us we may just be a little hard on ourselves. Here's a deeper dive into the data.

What's being measured?

The rankings were developed using data from NHTSA, focusing on five major factors:

  • Fatality Rate – The total number of traffic deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
  • Failure to Obey – The number of road fatalities involving failure to use safety restraints and individuals ignoring traffic safety devices and driving illegally with an invalid license.
  • Drunk Driving – The number of fatal crashes involving a driver impaired by alcohol.
  • Speeding – The number of driving deaths involving a driver who was speeding.
  • Careless Driving – The number of pedestrians and pedalcyclists (usually bicyclists) killed by motorists for every 100 thousand residents.

State rankings for worst drivers

The top ten states for the worst drivers are:

10. North Dakota
T-8. Delaware
T-8. North Carolina
7. New Mexico
6. South Carolina
5. Nevada
4. Texas
3. Louisiana
2. Arizona
1. Montana

Montana is the worst driving state, in part because apparently drivers refuse to obey traffic rules. Forty-one deadly collisions involved someone driving with an invalid license, 59 fatal crashes involved drivers ignoring traffic signals, and 114 people were killed in crashes due to neglecting to wear a seatbelt.

Related: Report details hardest hit Michigan areas for opioid use, drug overdoses

There were a total of 224 traffic deaths in Montana in 2015 alone, 32 more than the previous year, putting Montana at a rate of 1.81 fatalities for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

State rankings for best drivers

These are the top ten best driving states:

41. Maryland
42. Michigan
43. West Virginia
44. Utah
45. Massachusetts
46. Vermont
47. Ohio
48. Virginia
49. New Jersey
50. Minnesota
51. Iowa

Check out this interactive map showing the full rankings for 2017:

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Where does Michigan rank by driving category?

With Michigan ranking near the top for driving, the state tends to score well on the major driving categories. Here are some of the 2017 findings:

  • 14 percent of fatal crashes involved drivers not wearing seat belts (45th best)
  • 27 percent of fatal crashes involved blood alcohol level over legal limit (32nd)
  • 27 percent of fatal crashes involved speeding (29th)

An area Michigan drivers scored low on was careless driving. In 2017, 166 pedestrians were killed and 33 cyclists, which is 17th most in the U.S.

Last year, a study found Detroit had the highest pedestrian traffic fatality rate in the U.S.

Detroit had the highest pedestrian fatality rate per 100,000 population (6.79), followed by Dallas (4.31), Memphis (4.27), and Jacksonville (4.15). The report shows that Detroit had 130 total traffic fatalities in 2015 - 46 of those were pedestrian. 

Michigan has consistently ranked in the top ten for best drivers. In 2015, it ranked No. 41; 2016 at No. 44.

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital special projects manager for WDIV / He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013.