Which City Has the Most Reckless Drivers? [New Data]

man looking at his phone while driving

Each year, the number of reckless driving incidents reported in the United States grows. And since most Americans rely on a vehicle each day, we inevitably end up sharing roads with reckless drivers. Whether it’s sitting in Los Angeles traffic or navigating the congested streets of New York City, driving in every city has its own frustrations. Many are firm believers that their own beloved cities claim the worst drivers in America.

We compiled data from cities across the United States to see which had the most reported DUIs and incidents within the last 12 months, and analyzed the effect of these patterns on local car insurance rates. Let’s see, once and for all, which city boasts the worst drivers in America.

What is reckless driving?

Reckless driving is defined as the operation of a vehicle with total disregard for the rules of the road and the safety of said vehicle. It’s a more serious violation than careless driving, and it may result in a misdemeanor criminal offense or misdemeanor driving offense, depending on each state’s laws.

Reckless drivers blatantly neglect the safety of themselves and other individuals on the road. They know the rules and laws but disregard them despite the risks. Reckless driving is relatively common across the U.S., so it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. Below are some examples of reckless driving behavior:

  • Excessive speeding, usually 25 mph or more over the speed limit
  • Ignoring traffic signals
  • Operating a vehicle known to have dangerous components (like faulty brakes)
  • Racing
  • Tailgating
  • Drinking and driving
  • Illegally passing another vehicle

What is the difference between careless and reckless driving?

The main difference between reckless and careless driving behavior is intent.

People often confuse the two because they are similar, and both carry significant consequences. However, reckless driving is a more serious violation because those behind the wheel are willfully disobeying traffic laws. Thus, reckless driving carries more serious consequences, including costly fines and/or license suspension. Careless drivers, on the other hand, are considered less dangerous because their driving ‘mistakes’ were accidental.

Factors that determine reckless driving

The differences between reckless and careless driving can be a bit complicated, so courts usually use various factors to define an incident as ‘reckless.’ These factors include:

  • Circumstances — Including — but not limited to — time of day, weather conditions, who was present at the time of the incident, the kind of the vehicle, etc.
  • Blatant disregard — The driver was acting out of negligence, with heedlessness for the safety of those around them.
  • Safety — While reckless driving is certainly more serious when others’ safety is at risk, drivers can be charged even if no one else is around if they’ve put their own lives — or others’ property — at risk.

Consequences of reckless driving

Reckless driving penalties vary based on a few factors: individual state laws, the driver’s history, and the specific circumstances surrounding the violation. For example, if mortalities occur, the reckless driver can be found guilty of murder and handed significant jail time. Consequences might include:

  • A misdemeanor offense
  • A reckless driving charge
  • Probation
  • Jail time
  • Revocation of parole
  • Suspension of license
  • Substantial fines

Which city has the worst drivers?

Now that you know what constitutes reckless driving, let’s see which U.S. cities have the worst drivers. We’ve cross-referenced numbers from our database with the Census Bureau’s most recent city populations to calculate the number of incidents and DUIs per capita in the last 12 months.

Best Cities to Drive In

Fewest Reckless Driving Incidents Reported

The cities with the fewest incidents per capita from our database are New York City, Chicago, Detroit, El Paso, and Honolulu. You might be surprised to see these major cities among those with the fewest reported incidents, but these dense urban areas appear safer for drivers, while rural areas have a higher number of incidents per capita — many of which are more severe.

Fewest DUIs Reported

Larger cities also reported relatively few DUIs per capita in the past 12 months, with New York City, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Detroit, and San Francisco rounding out the top five. For each of these cities, less than 0.01% of the population recorded a DUI violation.

Worst Cities to Drive In

Most Reckless Driving Incidents Reported

Cities in Georgia and South Carolina — Marietta, Greenville, Atlanta, and Columbia — reported the highest number of reckless driving incidents per capita in the past 12 months. South Carolina, in particular, suffered from a high rate of deadly car crashes on rural roads. San Francisco, CA rounded out the list of dangerous driving cities, with 990 incidents.

Most DUIs Reported

The five cities with most reported DUIs per capita were Marietta, GA, Bowling Green, KY, Smyrna, GA, Salt Lake City, UT, and Simi Valley, CA. Marietta topped the list with 1,424 DUIs reported in the last 12 months.

How does reckless driving affect car insurance rates?

If you live in any of the aforementioned cities with the worst drivers, you might be nodding in agreement. Unfortunately, residing in any of those cities almost certainly means higher insurance premiums. It’s a “guilty by association” situation: you’re at a greater risk of getting into an accident because you’re surrounded by drivers prone to reckless behavior. Providers often check zip codes to assess risk and assign premiums. So how do you combat these expensive rates? Shop around and compare different providers.