How safe are North Dakota’s roads? You may ask yourself this question as you drive to the grocery store or hit the highway on the way to your parents’ house or school activity. You may look in the mirror at your children asleep in the back seat. You know you will do everything you can to protect them. But what does that mean?

For starters, it means focusing on the task at hand. There’s more to driving than just controlling your vehicle. You need to watch out for other drivers. According to the most recent survey from WalletHub, North Dakota’s drivers rank among the nation’s worst, just narrowly escaping the bottom ten.

The link between unsafe drivers and deadly crashes

WalletHub’s safety metrics measured more than crashes. In addition to speeding, traffic fatalities and other collisions, they measured such things as:

  • Seatbelt use
  • Car theft rates
  • The number of uninsured drivers
  • Strictness of DUI punishments

This means the state’s 40th place safety ranking may not tell us exactly how the state rates for the overall safety of its roads. However, the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) seems to support the idea that North Dakota’s drivers can do better.

According to the NHTSA, North Dakotans have died in auto crashes at a much greater rate than the rest of the nation. This rate has remained constant for the past five years on record. Although the rate has trended downward, North Dakotans still suffered 13.81 deaths per million in 2018 versus the nation’s 11.17 deaths per million.

The leading causes of deadly crashes

Notably, the NHTSA reports that most fatal auto crashes involved only a single vehicle. They accounted for 51% of all fatal crashes. Other leading factors included:

  • Crashing off the road – 51%
  • Speeding – 38%
  • Seatbelt not in use – 35%
  • Large trucks – 29%
  • Alcohol – 28%

In addition, the NHTSA reports that rural crashes far outweighed urban ones. This likely comes as little surprise to North Dakotans, but it does help clarify the larger picture.

What is that larger picture? It may look something like this: Your child rides with a friend who’s had a drink or two. They cruise along the highway and get distracted. Perhaps, the driver drops something and reaches down to pick it up. He’s speeding, so he doesn’t have time to react as they race off the road and crash. They die. Both families suffer.

Not all crashes look alike

While the statistics say the solitary crash is most common, 46% of all North Dakota fatalities still involve multiple vehicles. So, when you see that vehicle swerving on the road ahead of you? Slow down. Pay attention. Avoid becoming a statistic. Be safe and stay alive.