10 States with the Most Reckless Drivers [2022 Study]

The states with the most reckless drivers include Wyoming and North and South Dakota. Read the article to see which state took the top spot and learn how a reckless driving charge affects car insurance.

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UPDATED: Jun 22, 2022

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Written By: Chris TepedinoReviewed By: Joel OhmanUPDATED: Jun 22, 2022Fact Checked

Here's What You Need to Know...

  • States like Wyoming and North Dakota, with small populations in rural areas, tend to have the most reckless drivers
  • Other high-ranking states have law enforcement that strictly enforces reckless driving laws, including New Jersey and Washington
  • The consequences of reckless driving can include fines, increased insurance rates, and jail time

When you hear the term “reckless driving,” a street racer tearing down the road and zipping through traffic might come to mind. However, reckless driving covers a broad range of behaviors that earn a ticket.

Reckless driving includes speeding, hit-and-runs, brake checking, tailgating, and many other behaviors. Laws vary by state, but the general idea is that a reckless driver willingly engages in behaviors that disregard other people’s safety.

The consequences of breaking reckless driving laws are more severe than just a ticket. Reckless driving causes accidents, increased insurance rates, and even traffic fatalities.

So, which states have the most reckless drivers? Read on to learn how drivers in your state behave on the road, then compare rates with insurance companies if you have a reckless driving charge on your record.

Which states have the most reckless drivers?

There are two main reasons why states rank high regarding careless driving. Some states simply have drivers that engage in higher amounts of risky behaviors that other states. And reckless driving usually happens more often in states with smaller populations than in densely packed urban areas.

The other reason states tend to have higher rates of reckless drivers is that they strictly enforce driving laws. As a result, states like New Jersey can otherwise be one of the safest places to drive and still have some of the most reckless driver citations.

Keeping this in mind, here are the 10 states with the most reckless driver citations.

Number 10: Nebraska

With 24.3 reckless drivers per 10,000, the Cornhusker State barely takes the last spot on this list.

Nebraska’s number of reckless drivers is 34% higher than the national average. Even with 20% fewer police officers than most states, Nebraskan drivers still manage to rack up reckless driving charges.

To combat the high number of reckless drivers, Nebraska has a maximum punishment for a first-time reckless charge of up to three months in jail or a $500 fee.

Nebraska has the second-highest number of accidents and slightly higher than average traffic fatalities.

Number Nine: New Jersey

New Jersey is more lenient for first-time offenders, despite ranking at number nine with 24.4 reckless drivers per 10,000. Reckless drivers in the Garden State face up to 60 days in jail or $50 to $200 in fines.

However, New Jersey has over 50% more police officers than the average state, which means reckless drivers have less chance of remaining undetected. 

Despite a higher level of reckless driving offenses, New Jersey earns the number two spot for states with the fewest traffic fatalities.

Number Eight: New Hampshire

The second New England state on this list, New Hampshire, ups the number of reckless drivers per 10,000 to 26, 44% more than the national average. If you get a ticket for reckless driving, you’ll have your license suspended for 60 days and face at least $500 in fines.

New Hampshire has lower rates of cell phone use while driving, and drivers tend to be less aggressive. The main reason New Hampshire makes this list is due to speeding.

Number Seven: Washington

With 35.6 reckless drivers per 10,000, Washington has nearly double the rate of careless drivers. Surprisingly, the Evergreen State also has the lowest concentration of police officers in the country.

Washington has some of the most severe punishments for a first-time charge to deter reckless driving. You’ll face up to a year in jail and $5,250 in fees if you get a ticket. Washington is plagued by inattentive drivers, with the most offenders in traffic-heavy Seattle.

Number Six: South Carolina

With 36 reckless drivers per 10,000, South Carolina doubles the national average. The Palmetto State’s police officer population is about a quarter less than most states, so there are probably more reckless drivers on the road than arrest statistics suggest.

If you receive a reckless driving ticket in South Carolina, you’ll be looking at up to 30 days in jail and $25 to $200 in fees. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), South Carolina has the second most traffic fatalities.

Number Five: Montana

The Treasure State has more than double the national average for reckless drivers, with 36.5 per 10,000 drivers. If you get a reckless driving ticket, you might find yourself in jail for up to 90 days or a fine of anywhere between $25 to $300.

Aside from many reckless drivers, Montana also struggles with DUIs. In fact, 35% of all traffic fatalities in Montana involve drinking, and the state frequently has the most DUI deaths per 100,000 drivers in the country.

Number Four: Wyoming

Although Wyoming has a small population, it gets into serious trouble on the road, with 40.9 reckless drivers per 10,000.

Aside from reckless drivers, Wyoming has high numbers of DUIs and fatal accidents. Wyoming residents also receive more citations for cell phone use and rude behaviors like brake checking and failure to yield.

Wyoming is trying to crack down on its reckless drivers, though. Drivers with a reckless driving charge face up to six months in jail, $750 in fees, and a surcharge between $150 and $350.

Number Three: South Dakota

With nearly 50 careless drivers per 10,000, South Dakota has the third most reckless charges in America. It also has one of the most severe punishments for reckless driving — up to a year in jail and possibly $2,000 in fines.

Like other northern Midwestern states, South Dakota struggles with DUIs. Unfortunately, South Dakota has the highest DUI arrests per 100,000 drivers.

Number Two: North Dakota

At 217% of the national average, North Dakota has 57.4 reckless drivers per 10,000. A reckless driving charge in the Peace Garden State comes with the potential of 30 days in jail and up to $1,500 in fees.

North Dakota frequently ranks in the top spots on lists regarding lousy driving behavior. Nearly 30% of North Dakotans have a traffic violation on their driving records, and the state struggles with high numbers of DUIs and accident fatalities.

Number One: Virginia

Coming in at number one is the Old Dominion State. Virginia has 68.6 reckless drivers per every 10,000, which represents a staggering 279% increase over the national average.

A first-time charge for reckless driving comes with the chance of a year in jail and $2,500 in fees. Although Virginia has a slightly smaller concentration of police officers than other states, its police force is dedicated to reducing careless driving. The state is riddled with speed traps, and the punishment is one of the harshest.

Although Virginia does relatively well for driver fatalities and DUI numbers, the Old Dominion has the rudest drivers in the country.

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Which states have the safest drivers?

If the states above have the most reckless drivers, which states have the best drivers? The results may surprise you since some of the safest states also have the most reckless driving tickets.

The safest states in America are:

  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Washington
  • Minnesota
  • Hawaii
  • Connecticut
  • Vermont
  • New Hampshire

Although states like New Hampshire and New Jersey have higher reckless driving rates, they also have the fewest traffic fatalities.

One of the critical differences in states that are safe to drive in is the dedication of local governments to make roads safer for drivers. States like New Jersey are cracking down on reckless driving, which results in more tickets but safer streets.

How does a reckless driving charge affect your insurance?

To keep insurance prices down, drivers should do their best to avoid a reckless driving charge. It depends on the nature of the incident, but the average reckless driving charge can increase your rates by about 90%.

If you have several reckless driving charges or a particularly severe one, your insurance company might drop your coverage altogether. High-risk drivers pay much higher rates than drivers with clean records and can have difficulty finding a high-risk car insurance company that will work with them.

Some states require that you file an SR-22 car insurance form after a reckless driving incident before you can legally drive again. An SR-22 form verifies that you meet the state’s minimum insurance requirements, and most companies can file it for you. However, you’ll pay higher rates if your local DMV requires an SR-22.

Find the Best Car Insurance After Reckless Driving

No matter how your home state ranks on reckless driving, it’s the responsibility of all drivers to stay alert and follow traffic laws when they get behind the wheel. Careless driving citations can cause higher rates, lost discounts, and the potential of being dropped by your company.

However, a reckless driving citation doesn’t mean you can’t drive. If you find yourself with a reckless driving ticket, you can save money on your insurance by comparing quotes with multiple companies.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about auto insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything auto insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by auto insurance experts.

Chris Tepedino is a feature writer that has written extensively about car insurance for numerous websites. He has a college degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and has experience reporting, researching investigative pieces, and crafting detailed, data-driven features. His works have been featured on CB Blog Nation, Flow Words, Healing Law, WIBW Kansas, and Cinncinati.com. H...

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Written by Chris Tepedino
Feature Writer Chris Tepedino

Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

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