Insights

Danger on the Roads? States with the Most Repeat Driving Offenses

For some drivers, perhaps the third chance is the charm. It’s no secret that American states differ in their driving behavior. But which have the most re-offenders and what kind of charges are they racking up?

For many, causing an accident or being pulled over serves as a wake-up calla signal to metaphorically change lanes and get back on the high road. However, for others, some of these bad habits are harder to break, and they find themselves committing the same offenses once again. While repeat traffic offenses are a nationwide problem, states are afflicted to different degrees and in different capacities. Some see greater than their expected share of DUI re-offenses, while others face higher repeat license suspensions.

The data scientists at Insurify, an auto insurance quotes comparison site, crunched the numbers to see both the overall breakdown of repeat driving offenses and the statistics on re-offending for specific incidents (namely, license suspension, at-fault accident, DUI, and speeding). So which states are stuck on repeat?

Insights

  • Regional factions. Though the top re-offending states in aggregate (i.e. considering all incident types) are distributed around the country, when one breaks down the repeat offenses by category, rivaling regions begin to emerge.
    • DUI in the North. The top five states for re-offending DUI (in descending order: Wyoming, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Montana, and Alaska) are all northern states with low populations and long, dark winters.
    • Accidents in the East. High population density and even higher rates of traffic are hallmarks of the top five locations for repeated at-fault accidents (Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Rhode Island; Connecticut; and Massachusetts), all of which are located on the East Coast.
    • Suspended licenses in the Midwest. Drivers in the American heartland (North Dakota, Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska, and Wisconsin) are the most likely to face recurring license suspensions.
    • Panamerican speeding. Re-offending speeders are the only drivers to defy these regional trends, as the top states (Iowa, South Carolina, North Dakota, Virginia, and Ohio) for this repeat violation are spread across the country.

  • Speeding and accident heavyweights. Over 80 percent of repeat offenses come from speeding and at-fault accidents alone. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the United States sees more than six million traffic accidents annually, with one fatality occurring roughly every six seconds. Moreover, speeding was a contributing factor in a third of those fatalities, suggesting that these offenses are not entirely independent. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that the re-offending rates in these two categories are so similar. Conversely, only one in seven repeat offenses are license suspensions, and less than 2.5 percent come from DUI.
  • Some bad habits are harder to break than others. Though speeding and accidents make up the largest share of repeat offenses, they are not the violation to which drivers are most likely to succumb more than once. Drivers who have had their licenses suspended are the most likely to re-offend compared to all other categories; with close to two in five drivers losing their license again in the future. DUI—arguably the charge with the most severe consequences—is the offense where drivers are least likely to return to their prior ways. Only eight percent go on to commit the crime a second time. Drivers with a history of speeding or accidents are more moderate with around one in five going on to re-offend.

Methodology

To determine rates of repeat offenses by state, the data team at Insurify, a car insurance quotes comparison website, analyzed its database of over 1.6 million applicants. Users answer questions on vehicle type, driver history, and personal information to receive free, real-time auto insurance quotes. Insurify’s data science team identified drivers with two or more violations of the same incident-type, indexed them by state of residence, and ranked them by prevalence. They then repeated this process for incident-specific rankings.

Without further ado, here are the top ten states for repeat driving offenses.

10. Idaho

  • #6 for Repeat Suspended Licenses
  • #34 for Repeat Accidents
  • #10 for Repeat DUI
  • #15 for Repeat Speeding

While it ranks in the bottom half for repeat accidents, Idaho sits in the top 15 for license suspension, DUI, and speeding. The lead recurrent offense in Idaho is license suspension, which can be provoked by violations such as DUI, hit-and-run, driving uninsured, or unpaid child support. Point accumulation for minor driving infractions can also trigger a license suspension. Given that DUI is one of the triggers for license suspension, it may come as no surprise that Idaho ranks similarly in these categories.


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9. Wyoming

  • #14 for Repeat Suspended Licenses
  • #43 for Repeat Accidents
  • #1 for Repeat DUI
  • #7 for Repeat Speeding

Though its low ranking for repeat accidents excludes Wyoming from the top half of this top 10 list, it is the #1 state in the nation for recurrent DUI infractions as well as the NHTSA’s top state for DUI fatalities. While urban states tend to report the highest number of accidents, states with lower population densities see the highest share of fatalities. This is in part due to elevated rates of DUI offenses, such as those in Wyoming.

8. Hawaii

  • #17 for Repeat Suspended Licenses 
  • #10 for Repeat Accidents 
  • #35 for Repeat DUI
  • #6 for Repeat Speeding

Despite being a beautiful natural paradise, Hawaii is no paragon for traffic safety. The island state ranks in the top 10 for both repeat accidents and speeding, which are the two heavyweights for recurrent driving offenses. As many as one in seven drivers report a speeding ticket, with four percent having multiple on their record. With statewide speed limits maxing out at 60 mph, it may be unsurprising that many drivers continue to push their luck when they should instead pump the breaks.


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7. South Carolina

  • #26 for Repeat Suspended Licenses
  • #7 for Repeat Accidents
  • #44 for Repeat DUI
  • #2 for Repeat Speeding

Despite low numbers of DUI and modest rates of license suspension, South Carolina sits in the top 10 for recurrent speeding and accidents nationwide. One reason that the state may see such bold rates of repeat speeding is that tickets are comparatively easy to fight. While most states have the fine set on the speeding ticket, in South Carolina, the amount is left to the discretion of each judge. Therefore, a savvy, speedy driver can more easily appeal that penalty on the basis that another judge may have given them a lighter fine. With their high number of repeat speeders, South Carolinians are not one-and-done with their need for speed.

6. Wisconsin

  • #5 Repeat Suspended License
  • #25 Repeat Accidents
  • #3 Repeat DUI
  • #9 Repeat Speeding

Wisconsin is a heavy-hitter for repeat offenses in three of the four incident types—license suspension, DUI, and speeding. A staggering 60+ percent of drivers who lose their licenses once will lose them again. Similarly to Idaho, DUI is once again one of the triggers for license suspension. Given the association between these offenses, it’s little wonder that the state cracks the top five for each.


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5. Virginia

  • #13 Repeat Suspended License 
  • #18 Repeat Accidents
  • #23 Repeat DUI
  • #4 Repeat Speeding

Old Dominion is not home to the United States’ most speed-conscious drivers. Over 16 percent of Virginians possess a speeding ticket, and one in three of them will go on to speed again. Out-of-state drivers won’t catch a break just because they’re passing through—all are required to return to Virginia to appear in court in person.

4. Nebraska

  • #4 Repeat Suspended License
  • #11 Repeat Accidents
  • #12 Repeat DUI
  • #10 Repeat Speeding

Nebraska, though located in the middle of the American Heartland, has no soft spot when it comes to license suspension. In fact, while many states revoke licenses primarily for vehicular infractions, there are many violations that can trigger a suspension in Nebraska even if the holder has only ever driven lawfully. These include failure to comply with alimony or child support, most juvenile charges, noncompliance with a drug test, drug addiction, or alcoholism (which is not, in and of itself, even a crime). This wide array of eligible offenses likely contributes to Nebraska’s position as one of America’s leading states in license suspension.


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3. Ohio

  • #3 Repeat Suspended License
  • #19 Repeat Accidents
  • #14 Repeat DUI
  • #5 Repeat Speeding

Ohio, the number three state for re-offending drivers, sees high rankings for repeat suspended licenses and speeding. However, the punishment for these incidents can vary significantly. Even recurrent speeding typically only warrants fines, while more severe violations, such as vehicular homicide, can result in permanent license suspension.

2. Iowa

  • #7 Repeat Suspended License
  • #12 Repeat Accidents
  • #8 Repeat DUI
  • #1 Repeat Speeding

The Hawkeye state claims the runner-up position of this ranking, placing in the top 10 for license suspension, DUI, and speeding. With almost five percent of drivers having multiple tickets on their record, Iowa leads the country in repeat speeding. Over one in 10 of those come from Polk County—the district surrounding Des Moines—making Polk one of, if not the, speediest counties in the nation.

1. North Dakota

  • #1 Repeat Suspended License
  • #37 Repeat Accidents
  • #2 Repeat DUI
  • #3 Repeat Speeding

North Dakota claims the title as the state with the most repeat diving offenses in America, with an over eight percent higher re-offending rate than the next leading state. Given its low density of drivers on the road, North Dakota was likely never destined to rank high in repeat accidents, but it places in the top three for all other categories. In the Roughrider State, 57 percent of drivers with a suspended license, 16 percent with an at-fault accident, 10 percent with a DUI, and 29 percent with a speeding ticket will go on to commit a second offense of the same type. These high rates of repeat offenses push North Dakota to the front of the pack when it comes to states with the most re-offending drivers.

If you have questions or comments about this article, please contact insights@insurify.com.

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Insurify's team of data scientists and content specialists present Insurify Insights, a series of automotive and demographic studies focusing on driver behavior, regional superlatives, and national rankings. Through expert analysis of over 1.6 million car insurance shopper applications, the Insurify Insights team produces new data-driven articles every week.