You hear stories about the aggressive drivers in New York. You see pictures of the bumper-to-bumper traffic in Los Angeles. It feels like the big city has the worst drivers and carries the highest level of risk. Surely, the highly populated coastal states must have some of the highest accident fatality numbers, right?
By comparison, driving across Montana seems so safe and easy that it's almost boring. No city in the state compares to L.A. or The Big Apple. It's easy to find wide-open roads where you barely see another car. You feel relaxed and free behind the wheel; there is something of the American open ranch still alive in Montana, and you enjoy exploring it.
While all of these opinions and stereotypes are understandable, on some levels, the statistics paint a vastly different picture. Montana actually has some of the most dangerous roads in the country.
Per miles traveled
The thing you have to remember is to ignore the total fatality statistics. Yes, places like California and New York see more deadly accidents simply because they have more people putting more miles on their cars. Higher populations lead to more traffic fatalities. They always have and they always will. That's why you feel nervous in the city in a way you never do in the country.
However, it's important to look at the statistics and adjust them for the number of fatalities per vehicle miles traveled. This gives you the fatal accident rates and shows you the risks that you face in a way that you can compare across all of the states in the U.S.
When you do that, setting things at fatalities per 100 million miles, the rate in Montana ranks 50th overall. That's the second-worst rating, since throwing in the District of Columbia gives the statistics 51 districts to compare. The only state with higher fatality rates, on a per mile basis, is South Carolina.
Other key rankings
It's important to note that the study ranked the states in numerous categories, and they ranked Montana 51st overall. That's in large part due to low rankings in categories like failure to obey traffic laws (51st), drunk driving (48th) and speeding (46th). The fatality rate was already damaging enough, but adding in these extra factors pushed things over the edge.
By way of comparison, despite having more fatal incidents per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, South Carolina ranked 46th overall.
Understanding the risk
As a driver in Montana, it is important to actually understand the risk. You need to know that people's attitudes toward safety put you in danger and increase accident rates. When you get injured or lose a loved one in an accident, you may be able to seek financial compensation.