The millions of people who take to the nation's highways for Thanksgiving should keep a sharp eye out for Texas and Louisiana license plates: A study from a car insurance group says drivers from those states are among the worst in the country.
The study by CarInsuranceComparison.com, a site that allows people to compare insurance companies, looked at data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). It analyzed crashes in five categories: fatalities per 100 million miles traveled, failure to obey traffic signals or wear seat belts, drunken driving, speeding and careless driving.
Rounding out the top 10 for worst-driving honors: South Carolina, North Dakota, Delaware, New Mexico, Nevada, Alabama, Arizona and Montana.
Texas leaped from fourth place to a tie with its neighbor, Louisiana, for first place this year. It's the only state where drivers place among the top 15 in each of the five categories. Texas drivers rank third in drunken driving and ninth for fatalities per miles driven and speeding, the study found.
Texas transportation officials noted Nov. 4 that at least one person had died on a state road every day for 16 years. To end the streak of 55,578 deaths, officials urged motorists to buckle seat belts, pay attention to the road, and never drink and drive.
“These deadly crashes are a sobering reminder that we must do everything in our power to stay focused and safe while driving,” James Bass, executive director of the state Transportation Department, said in a statement. “Let’s end the streak.”
Louisiana drivers rank the worst at obeying signals and fifth worst for fatalities per miles driven and careless driving, according to the study.
“Texas and Louisiana have been notorious for bad driving for four or five years of this study," said Josh Barnes, a spokesman for CarInsuranceComparison.com. “It shows you the human-error factor is really there."
The study comes as traffic-related fatalities are rising after decades of declines – 35,092 people died in 2015 in traffic accidents, a 7.2% increase from a year earlier. Traffic deaths haven't climbed that steeply since 1966, when fatalities rose 8.1% over the year before.
“We want to first and foremost tell people that you need to be careful when you’re on the road," said Josh Barnes, a CarInsuranceComparison.com spokesman. "Things can happen in the blink of an eye."
NHTSA is sharing its Fatality Analysis Reporting System with state and local officials, technologists, data scientists and policy experts to search for ways to reduce crashes.
"Despite decades of safety improvements, far too many people are killed on our nation’s roads every year," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in announcing the fatality figures in August. "Solving this problem will take teamwork.”
More people are on the roads as they take advantage of low gas prices, according to NHTSA. In 2015, the number of vehicle miles traveled grew 3.5% over 2014, the largest increase in nearly 25 years.
"The data tell us that people die when they drive drunk, distracted, or drowsy, or if they are speeding or unbuckled," said Mark Rosekind, the NHTSA administrator.