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where car accidents happen most

There's no surefire way to avoid car accidents. If there were, you wouldn't need insurance (and we'd be selling refrigerators). But accidents do tend to happen more often in certain places and at certain times. We'll talk about a few accident hot spots and tell you how to reduce the risk on your ride.

Driving close to home

car accident

You might think the drowsiness that accompanies a long road trip is more of a threat than cruising around your neighborhood. But car accidents often take place within just 25 miles of home. While this is due to the fact that most driving occurs close to home, the relaxation we feel caused by the repetition of driving through our own neighborhood likely plays a role.

If you've ever gotten home from work only to realize that your brain was on auto-pilot the whole drive, then you know this phenomenon. Driving in familiar places can cause us to rely more on muscle memory than on our active driving skills (making us less likely to be hyper-vigilant on the road.

The 2 most important things you can do to stay safe on a short neighborhood ride are the same things that will protect you on any ride: stay alert and buckle up. Seems like a no-brainer, but being active about these things really does make you a better, safer driver.

Try not to fall into a comfort zone when you're approaching your humble abode (or hilltop mansion). Even though you may know the route like the back of your hand, accidents are often caused by unpredictable elements like another driver, a crossing animal, or car equipment failure. And letting your guard down can decrease your responsiveness behind the wheel.

The stats also suggest the importance of buckling your seat belt even if you're just driving around the corner. A main reason drivers give for skipping on seatbelts, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), is that they're only going a short distance. But buckling up, even close to home, is a habit worth getting into.

Times of day when drivers are vulnerable

time of day

More cars on the road often means more risk for drivers. Not surprisingly, late afternoon and evening (the hours when most commuters are heading home) rank as the most dangerous times to drive. In fact, in 2012, a whopping 16 percent of fatal accidents happened between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

The other most fatal time wasn't statistically far behind. 28 percent of fatal accidents occurred between 6 p.m. and midnight.

The road less traveled may be more dangerous

Though cramped city driving is known to whiten our knuckles, it's not city roads that feature in the scenes of most fatal accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that, in 2012, nearly 4,000 more fatal car accidents happened on rural roads than on busy urban streets.

States that have the most fatal car accidents

Those country roads and wide-open spaces figure prominently into fatal car accident rates per capita: Wyoming, Mississippi, Montana, and North Dakota have the most, according to the Department of Transportation. When it comes to overall numbers, it's not surprising that the most populous states are home to the most traffic deaths. Texas is great for many things (tasty barbeque, rousing rodeos…), but according to the NHTSA, the Lone Star State had the most fatal car accidents in 2012 with 3,021. California wasn't too far behind with 2,632, and Florida came in third with 2,247.

The most fatal accidents by region

To further help drivers understand where accidents happen, check out which states had the most fatal car accidents in each region in 2012.

The most fatal accidents by region

Source: NHTSA

Where you drive impacts your car insurance

Living in a state, city, or area that's prone to accidents may result in a higher car insurance premium. But that's just one of many factors taken into account when your rate is determined, and it plays a smaller role than your own proud history of safe driving.

Understanding when and where accidents often happen can help you stay alert and safe behind the wheel. And that typically means lower insurance premiums over time. In other words, more savings for you.

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