As motorists shake their fists at other drivers over the busy Thanksgiving holiday, a car-insurance group has taken away the guesswork and ranked the worst drivers in the country.
Montana retained its dubious title from last year of having the worst drivers, as ranked for several categories of traffic fatalities by CarInsuranceComparison.com, a site that allows people to compare insurance companies. Big Sky Country ranks tops for speeding, sixth for careless driving and eighth for failure to obey traffic laws.
"Montana has the potentially deadly combination of high speed limits and severe winter weather that could really be driving up fatality rates," said Tyler Spraul, who directed the study for the web site.
But New Mexico, which hadn't ranked among the top 10 last year, leapt into a tie for second place with South Carolina. New Mexico, the land of enchantment, ranked fifth for careless driving and 10th for drunken driving, with troubling standings for speeding and failure to obey traffic laws.
"The rate of drunk driving should be a cause for concern among New Mexico residents, as their biggest change came in that category," Spraul said.
The rankings are based on scores from fatal-crash statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Categories included fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled; the percentage of fatal crashes involving failure to obey traffic laws such as signals, wearing seat-belts or driving with an invalid license; drunken driving; speeding; and careless driving for fatal collisions with pedestrians and bicyclists per 100,000 residents.
As the number of fatalities rose 8% during the first six months of 2015 compared to the same period a year earlier, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind urged states to do more to discourage drunken and distracted driving, and encourage the use of seat belts and motorcycle helmets.
"It really is time for our nation to get serious about the epidemic of death that is on our roadways," Rosekind told reporters Tuesday.
States with the worst drivers are: Montana, South Carolina and New Mexico tied for second, Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, Hawaii and North Dakota tied for seventh, Delaware, and Mississippi, according to the CarInsuranceComparison study.
Among the categories studied, the top-ranked states were: Montana for fatalities per million vehicle miles traveled, Louisiana for failure to obey traffic signals, seat-belt laws and having a driver's license, North Dakota for drunken driving, New Hampshire for speeding and Florida for careless driving.
Montana, South Carolina and Texas were the only states to finish among the 15 worst in four out of five categories, Spraul said. But the Palmetto State launched a "Target Zero" campaign in March from the departments of Public Safety and Transportation to improve road engineering, traffic enforcement, driver's education and emergency-medical services.
"I'm interested to see how their numbers change in the next two to three years as a result," Spraul said.