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2018 Road trip and motorist report: Best and worst states for driving

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To kick off summer road trip season, CarInsurance.com ranked states best to worst for driving, and also found out about the state of mind of the nation’s drivers. CarInsurance.com surveyed motorists to find out how they feel when behind the wheel, what their family road trips experiences are like, what they do to cope with traffic and what types of mishaps they've had due to poor road conditions.

CarInsurance.com ranked states on eight metrics to identify which ones are more favorable for motorists and found that Minnesota is the best state for driving and Arkansas is the worst.

Each state was scored on the following factors:

  • Insurance costs: Percentage of annual income spent on car insurance
  • Traffic fatalities: Deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled
  • Extra costs associated with road conditions: Annual extra vehicle repairs/operating costs due to driving on roads in need of fixing per motorist
  • Traffic congestion: Public road mileage and the number of registered vehicles
  • Gas: Average regular gas prices
  • Roads: Percentage of roads in poor/mediocre condition
  • Uninsured drivers: Percentage of uninsured motorists
  • Car repair costs: The average cost of car repairs (both parts and labor)

What we found was that no one state aced or failed every metric. Instead, states may perform well in one category and come near the bottom in another.

So, which were the best and worst states for driving? Here's the top five:

1. Minnesota

2. Vermont

3. Nebraska

4. Ohio

5. Maine

And the bottom five:

51. Arkansas

50. Florida

49. Louisiana

48. Connecticut

47. California

Let's take a look at how the best and worst became that way. Minnesota ranked near the top in a couple of categories: car insurance costs and traffic fatalities. It also fared well in other categories: gas prices, cost of car repair, traffic congestion and extra repairs/operating costs needed because of lousy roads.

Now, let's review Arkansas. That state ranked near the bottom in a few categories: car insurance costs, traffic fatalities and uninsured drivers. The only category in which Arkansas was near the top was low traffic congestion.

Now, let's take a look at the list. Here are all the rankings of the best and worst places to drive by state:

Best and worst states for driving

StateRankInsuranceUninsured driversTraffic deathsGasCar repairRoadsExtra costsTraffic
Minnesota11.69%11.5%0.66$2.49$36352%$25017.0
Vermont21.60%6.8%0.85$2.47$36045%$42419.3
Nebraska31.62%6.8%1.05$2.56$36459%$2829.5
Ohio41.76%12.4%0.95$2.51$34942%$21237.3
Maine52.34%4.5%1.07$2.63$34453%$24522.5
Utah61.78%8.2%0.94$2.90$38825%$19727.2
New Hampshire71.46%9.9%1.01$2.57$36654%$25936.3
Virginia81.45%9.9%0.9$2.66$37647%$25438.0
Iowa91.63%8.7%1.25$2.60$36546%$38114.1
Wyoming102.58%7.8%1.17$2.53$36147%$23611.0
Nevada112.37%10.6%1.21$2.58$38120%$23316.0
North Dakota122.92%6.8%1.11$2.76$35544%$2374.2
Massachusetts131.28%6.2%0.66$2.67$37642%$31369.4
South Dakota141.84%7.7%1.2$2.59$36061%$3245.5
Idaho151.79%8.2%1.43$2.52$38045%$30513.4
Montana162.14%9.9%1.44$2.61$38852%$1846.1
Washington171.69%17.4%0.87$3.20$37667%$27227.4
Georgia182.50%12.0%1.29$2.57$39619%$6028.3
Oregon192.14%12.7%1.32$3.11$37465%$17320.8
Missouri202.40%14.0%1.25$2.41$36931%$38018.8
Tennessee212.36%20.0%1.34$2.46$38638%$18225.3
Indiana221.79%16.7%0.99$2.70$36017%$22528.0
Illinois231.53%13.7%0.99$2.92$36673%$29233.0
Wisconsin242.30%14.3%0.95$2.63$34771%$28120.9
New York252.33%6.1%0.75$2.61$36960%$40342.3
Texas262.24%14.1%1.43$2.44$36838%$34325.5
South Carolina272.32%9.4%1.88$2.43$37440%$25526.1
Alabama282.35%18.4%1.49$3.19$38425%$14121.8
District of Columbia292.32%15.6%0.76$2.60$411----61.9
New Jersey301.61%14.9%0.78$2.58$38466%$60177.5
Kansas312.19%7.2%1.34$2.46$36462%$3198.5
Kentucky323.86%11.5%1.69$2.56$37934%$18521.6
Maryland331.88%12.4%0.86$2.68$39355%$42264.1
North Carolina343.25%6.5%1.26$3.09$38145%$24125.5
Hawaii352.02%10.6%1.03$3.55$34749%$51593.6
West Virginia363.05%10.1%1.37$2.53$37347%$27318.0
New Mexico372.78%20.8%1.53$2.69$37344%$29110.9
Michigan384.35%20.3%1.02$2.65$34338%$35736.2
Colorado391.99%13.3%1.15$2.54$38770%$28722.7
Alaska401.72%15.4%1.67$2.44$37849%$35922.5
Oklahoma413.23%10.5%1.4$2.41$36970%$42514.3
Pennsylvania422.50%7.6%1.16$2.87$37357%$34139.9
Delaware432.97%11.4%1.17$2.83$38836%$25757.7
Mississippi442.81%23.7%1.63$2.38$38251%$41912.8
Rhode Island452.74%15.2$0.66$2.65$40670%$46760.6
Arizona462.40%12.0%1.44$2.39$37852%$20529.9
California472.28%15.2%0.99$3.53$36568%$58678.6
Connecticut482.33%9.4%0.92$2.75$41173%$29467.4
Louisiana495.19%13.0%1.53$2.43$37462%$40831.4
Florida503.56%26.7%1.44$2.61$37626%$12853.0
Arkansas512.95%16.6%1.51$2.69$37439%$3089.9

Percentage of annual income spent on car insurance

How much you spend on car insurance varies by state. Of course, your income plays a key part in whether you can afford it. Someone with a $100,000 annual income will have a much easier time paying for car insurance than someone struggling at $20,000 a year.

We took the average costs of car insurance by state and annual median income and figured out the percentage of annual income spent on car insurance.

CarInsurance.com found Louisiana drivers spend the highest amount of their income on car insurance -- 5.19 percent. Michigan ranked second highest with 4.35 percent.

On the other end, Massachusetts, Virginia and New Hampshire all spend less than 1.5 percent of their income on car insurance.

Regardless of where you live, you can save on car insurance by comparing average car insurance rates, as what you pay for coverage varies significantly from one insurance company to the next. That's because insurers use their own unique formula to decide what you pay, so no two insurance companies will price a policy the same.

Deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled

There's not a more important statistic for finding out the safest places to drive than looking at road fatality numbers. We found that South Carolina, Kentucky and Alaska have the highest number of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

The lowest number of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled are Rhode Island, Minnesota and Massachusetts.

Annual extra vehicle repairs/operating costs per motorist due to driving on bad roads

We used U.S. Department of Transportation data to see how much extra drivers are paying on average for vehicle repairs and operating costs because they're driving on crumbling roads.

New Jersey tops that list with drivers averaging $601 in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs. California and Hawaii round out the three most expensive.

Cheapest are Georgia (only $60), Florida and Alabama.

Traffic congestion

Gauging a state's traffic congestion is an inexact science. Reports that explore traffic and congestion usually focus on cities or metro areas.

Instead, we used states' public road mileage and the number of registered vehicles to figure out the number of registered vehicle by road miles.

The state with the most number of registered cars per public road mileage may surprise you -- Hawaii. The Aloha State is followed by California, New Jersey and Massachusetts for the most.

The states with the lowest number of registered cars per public road mileage are North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.

Average regular gas prices

Gas taxes and a state's location play a key part in the cost of an average gallon of gas.

The highest gallon of regular gasoline is Hawaii ($3.55), which was nearly $1 more than the U.S. average of $2.67 when we pulled the numbers on April 11, 2018. California and Washington are the rest of the top three most expensive states for gas.

The lowest priced gas belongs to Mississippi ($2.38), Arizona, Missouri and Oklahoma.

Percentage of roads in poor/mediocre condition

U.S. Department of Transportation offers a percentage of roads in poor and mediocre condition by state.

You might not be surprised that the states with the highest percentage of roads in poor or mediocre condition are all places with rough winters.

Connecticut and Illinois topped the list with 73 percent of roads in poor or mediocre condition. Wisconsin, Colorado, Oklahoma and Rhode Island are all also above 70 percent.

On the other end are Indiana (17%), Georgia and Nevada.

Percentage of uninsured motorists

You probably don't think about uninsured motorists when you're driving, but they're there. Thirteen percent of American drivers are uninsured and one state has double that amount. Uninsured motorist coverage protects you if you're hit by an uninsured driver. 

The states with the highest percentage of uninsured drivers are Florida (26.7 percent), Mississippi and New Mexico.

Places in which uninsured drivers are not as much of a problem are Maine (4.5 percent), New York and Massachusetts.

The average cost of car repairs

The average cost of car repairs doesn't vary as widely as car insurance costs, but it's still good to see the differences.

Connecticut ($411.45) topped the list followed by the District of Columbia and Rhode Island. The cheapest place to get your car fixed is Michigan ($343.40), Maine and Wisconsin.

Driving: Best and worst states mapped out

AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DC DE FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY
States ranked in the top third for being best for driving
States ranked in the middle third for being best for driving
States ranked in the bottom third for being best for driving

 

 

 

Road trip and motorist survey

CarInsurance.com commissioned a survey of 1,000 drivers asking them about driving, family road trips, road conditions and traffic.

Don’t make me turn around – I’m turning around! Nearly half say family road trips “stressful, yet enjoyable”

Despite climbing gas prices, road trips remain a popular vacation option for families, with 92 percent of parents surveyed saying they’ve gone on a road trip in the past five years. The majority (72 percent) went for multiple days. Here’s how they described their family road trip:

  • 69% -- Super fun, we will do it again
  • 40% -- Stressful, yet enjoyable 
  • 7% -- Much more fighting than at home               
  • 7% -- Someone had a meltdown within an hour of the trip          
  • 3% --Someone had a meltdown before we left the neighborhood           

Summertime blues: work and gas prices top list for staying home

Of those who haven’t gone on a road trip in the past five years, job obligations and the cost of gas are primarily to blame. Of those who said they’d like to skip the confinement of a family road trip, 70 percent were women, 30 percent were men.

Those who haven’t road tripped recently cite the following reasons:

  • 41% -- Can’t take the time off work        
  • 36% -- Gas prices too high           
  • 19% -- Some family members get car sick             
  • 17% --Hate booking hotels/finding places to stay on the road     
  • 14% --Can’t stand the traffic I’d be in/hate driving           
  • 12% -- Don’t want to spend that much time in car with my family             
  • 11% --Don’t like road trips           

More women than men feel stress or rage while behind the wheel

A majority of drivers report feeling content or relaxed behind the wheel. But of those who do feel stressed out, 75 percent are women, 25 percent are men. Among drivers who feel rage-y, there are twice as many women (69 percent) than men (31 percent) drivers.  

Here is how motorists described how their driving experience makes them feel:

  • 46% -- Content, I like being behind the wheel    
  • 30% -- Relaxed and Zen, I enjoy driving 
  • 14% -- Indifferent, I don’t really have any feelings about driving, I just do it         
  • 8% -- Stressed out, I’m always in a hurry or worried about getting where I need to go    
  • 2% -- Rage-y, I hate driving         

Women cry more in traffic, men fight more

While navigating or sitting in heavy traffic, many drivers turn to the usual diversions of music or news, but nearly half (46 percent) say they talk or text on their cellphones, some ringing acquaintances (13 percent) for a chat to hedge the boredom. Almost a third of drivers in traffic fit in a meal, half that amount do work to pass the time. Others aren’t so lucky – seven percent have had accidents or been ticketed.  Eight percent of drivers had a confrontation with another motorist, and out of those, there  were nearly twice as many men (62 percent) than women (38 percent).  One in 10 drivers used the time away from home and the office to cry. Of the weepers, 80 percent were women, 20 percent men.

When asked what’s happened to them while sitting or driving in heavy traffic, drivers cited the following:

  • 72% --I’ve coped by listening to music or news, sports radio       
  • 46% -- I’ve talked or texted on the phone           
  • 31% -- I’ve eaten an entire meal              
  • 29% -- I’ve coped by listening to audio books or podcasts             
  • 15% -- I’ve gotten work done for my job (made calls, used mobile device)           
  • 13% -- I’ve called people I am not particularly close with to talk because I was bored       
  • 11% -- I’ve cried               
  • 8% -- I’ve gotten into an altercation with another driver               
  • 8% -- None of the above             
  • 7% -- I’ve gotten into an accident            
  • 7% -- I’ve gotten a traffic ticket 

 

Bad road conditions and construction:  detours, accidents, dings and dents

Motorists experience a multitude of mishaps due to poor road conditions. Forty-three percent of drivers sustained damage to their cars, while 17 percent hit an object or another vehicle. When asked if any of the following happened to them due to poor road conditions or construction, here is what they said:

  • 56% -- Changed my route to avoid poor roads   
  • 30% -- My car sustained minor damage (repairs or accident costing less than $1,000)       
  • 27% -- I got lost 27%
  • 17% -- I hit an object (single-car accident)            
  • 17% --I got into an accident with another car      
  • 15% --None of the above            
  • 13% -- My car sustained severe damage (repairs or accident costing over $1,000)             

 

 

Methodology:

Weighted rankings were calculated based on the following:

Percentage of annual income spent on car insurance -- 20%

Deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled -- 20%

Annual extra vehicle repairs/operating costs due to driving on roads in need of fixing per motorist -- 15%

Traffic congestion -- 15%

Average regular gas prices -- 10%

Percentage of roads in poor/mediocre condition -- 10%

Percentage of uninsured motorists -- 5%

The average cost of car repairs -- 5%

Byways: Number of federally designated byways (the umbrella term for the collection of 150 distinct and diverse roads designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation that includes National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads) *Used as a tie-breaker

    Sources:

    Average annual cost of insurance

    CarInsurance.com commissioned Quadrant Information Services to field rates from six major insurers in 10 ZIP codes of each state.

    Median household income

    2016 U.S. Census data

    Deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled

    Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2016

    Traffic congestion

    Federal Highway Administration 2010 data for number of registered vehicles and 2013 data for public road mileage.

    Gas prices

    American Automobile Association, April 11, 2018

    Percent of roads in poor/mediocre condition

    Estimated cost per motorist in the state to repair roads and bridges

    U.S. Department of Transportation, 2016

    Uninsured motorists

    Insurance Information Institute, 2015 (posted in 2017)

    Repair costs

    CarMD, 2017

    Note: Some of these data points did not include the District of Columbia. In those cases, we gave the district the median rating in the weighted average.

    Survey:

    CarInsurance.com commissioned Op4g to conduct a survey of 1,000 drivers who are over age 25 and who have children under age 18 living at home. The online survey was fielded in May 2018.

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