MoneyGeek analyzed National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data on motor vehicle fatalities from 2019 to 2021 — analyzing deaths on county roads, interstates, local streets, state highways and U.S. highways — to find the deadliest types of road in the country.
Our analysis broke down the deadliest types of roads in the U.S. and the deadliest road type in each state. Here are the key findings from the analysis:
- State highways are the deadliest type of road in the U.S., accounting for 1 in 3 crash fatalities.
- Alaska has the country’s deadliest state highways, with 64% of crash fatalities occurring on this type of road.
- In nine states, driving on a local street is deadlier than taking the highway. In Arizona, the state with the deadliest local streets, half of all crash fatalities in the state happen on local roads.
- North Carolina experiences the highest fatality rate in the country on its section of the U.S. highway system, with 37% of all state crash deaths occurring on these roads.
- Hawaii is home to the deadliest county roads in the U.S.; there, 41% of all crash fatalities occur on this road type. Michigan is the next-deadliest (40% of all crash fatalities) state.
The most dangerous types of road in the U.S.
In addition to calculating the most dangerous types of road overall, we also found the types of roads where the largest percentages of traffic fatalities occurred in every state.
While state highways were the most dangerous type of road in the U.S., they weren’t the deadliest everywhere. Local streets were the most dangerous road type in eight states, U.S. highways in five, and county roads in seven. Interstates were also included in the analysis but weren’t the deadliest road type in any state.
The states with the deadliest state highways
State highways are the most dangerous roads in the United States, with 33% of all auto-related deaths occurring on these roads. The study found that in 30 states, more crash fatalities take place on state highways than on any other road type.
From 2019 to 2021, Alaska’s 69 deaths made it the nation’s leader in this category — 64% of the state’s traffic fatalities were on a state highway, compared to the national average of 33%. South Carolina followed close behind, with 58% of crash fatalities occurring on state highways.
The states with the deadliest local streets
Local streets are the second-deadliest type of road in the U.S., with 20% of accident fatalities occurring on them; in eight states, they’re the most dangerous type of road.
Arizona is the state with the most car-related deaths on local streets: half of its traffic fatalities (50%) happened on these roads. Alaska placed second, with 36.1% of crash fatalities taking place on local streets, followed by Kansas (36.0%).
The states with the deadliest US highways
The differences between state highways and U.S. highways are subtle. However, our study found that U.S. highways are significantly less dangerous than state highways; in fact, while state highways were the most deadly road type in 30 states, U.S. highways were the most dangerous in just five.
This road type was most dangerous in North Carolina, where 37% of total crash fatalities occurred on state highways. Next was Nebraska (33%), followed by Wyoming (32%).
The states with the deadliest county roads
While county roads are less deadly than local streets and highways, they were still the deadliest roads in seven states. In Hawaii, deaths on county roads from 2019 to 2021 accounted for 41% of accident fatalities, the highest percentage of any state. County roads were also the most dangerous in Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio, with 40%, 39%, and 31% of crash-related deaths occurring there, respectively.
MoneyGeek analyzed FARS data from 2019 to 2021, the most recent data available, to find the total number of crash fatalities occurring on each type of road. To calculate the deadliest type of road in each state, we analyzed all crash fatalities across each road type and identified the road type where the highest percentage of crash fatalities occurred. In our state-level analysis, interstates were not the deadliest road type for any state. Roads classified as “Unknown” or “Other” were excluded from the study.
Definitions of road types:
- State Highway: High-speed roadway owned and maintained by the state.
- Local Street: Make up the majority of roads in the U.S. and provide primary access to residential areas, businesses and other local areas, typically with posted speed limits between 20 and 45 mph. This variable combines local streets in townships, municipalities and frontage roads.
- U.S. Highway: High-speed roadway owned and maintained by the federal government.
- County Road: Roadway owned and maintained by a state-recognized municipality or town.
- Interstate: High-speed roadway that serves interstate or regional traffic from state to state.
In addition to road types, the full data set uses the following terminology:
- State Highway Fatality %: Percentage of crash fatalities that took place on state highways from 2019 to 2021.
- Local Street Fatality %: Percentage of crash fatalities that took place on local streets from 2019 to 2021.
- U.S. Highway Fatality %: Percentage of crash fatalities that took place on U.S. highways from 2019 to 2021.
- County Road Fatality %: Percentage of crash fatalities that took place on county roads from 2019 to 2021.
- Interstate Fatality %: Percentage of crash fatalities that took place on Interstates from 2019 to 2021.
- Total Crash Fatalities: The sum of all crash fatalities between 2019 to 2021 for all road types in the specified state.
Staying safe while driving on every type of road
Life is unpredictable; we can be injured even if we stay home. That said, we can all recommit ourselves to driving safely and financially preparing for accidents.
It’s essential to make sure you’re financially well-protected by securing adequate car insurance coverage. Affordable car insurance is out there, and if you aren’t covered properly, you could spend a fortune on repairs in the aftermath of an accident.
Taking special precautions while driving on each road type can also help make you and others safer:
- State Highways: You’ll want to stay in the right lane when you can; the left lanes are for passing. Keep in mind that there are more entry points on a state highway, so if you aren’t paying attention, you could be surprised by a car turning into your path.
- Local Roads: As with any road, you should drive within the speed limit and not text while driving. You really want to be alert. Distracted driving can turn deadly, and with local roads, there are usually far more stopping and starting and lane changes than on a freeway, for instance.
- US Highways: On these roads, follow the tips you would for state highways and remember to avoid a marathon day of driving. Take advantage of the many places you can stop and rest. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that lack of sleep can make you less alert and impact your coordination, judgment and reaction time behind the wheel.
- County Roads: Keeping your eyes on the road and staying within the speed limit is good advice for any driving situation, but it’s imperative to do so on county roads, many of which are in sparsely populated areas. You could easily find an animal crossing the road, especially in the dark.
- Interstates: Choose your lanes wisely. Use the left lane (fast lane) sparingly. The right lane is for slower drivers, but drivers entering the interstate won’t immediately merge into the middle lane. Therefore, the middle lane is ideal if you are covering a long distance and don’t want to do a lot of lane switching. In other words, practice smart road safety.