The US City That's The Most Dangerous To Drive Through On Your Next Road Trip

As Superman once said, "Statistically speaking, flying is still the safest way to travel." However, until you develop flying powers or the U.S. develops a high-speed rail system like Japan's Shinkansen train (faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than an Amtrak), you're more likely to be driving or riding a Greyhound bus to some places.

Road trips can be fun — "Get your kicks on Route 66" and all that — but while they're a great way to see the changing topography of the U.S., it's not all beautiful scenery on the open road. As you pass through busy urban centers, even the safest driver might have their work cut out for them while navigating traffic in a new set of surroundings.

Part of driving defensively involves being prepared, and we don't just mean looking at a road map beforehand. It also helps to know where you're more likely to encounter hazardous driving conditions. Even when there aren't many other cars around, there's a risk of nodding off at the wheel on late-night road trips. With these things in mind, the question is, which major U.S. city is the most dangerous to drive in?

In a 2023 analysis conducted by U.S. News and World Reports, Memphis, Tennessee, ranked No. 1 as the most unsafe city for driving. This is backed up by information from the U.S. Department of Transportation (via Consumer Affairs), which shows that Memphis had more fatal car crashes in 2021 than even big cities like Chicago or New York.

Drive safe in Memphis

Government data (via the local news outlet, Action News 5) indicates that speeding is the cause of one out of every five deadly car accidents in Memphis. With about 1% of the country's fatal crashes occurring in this city, it's definitely a place where you'll want to be a little extra careful when driving. Several interstate highways run through Memphis, so even if you're not visiting the city itself, you may pass through it at some point on your way elsewhere.

That's not to say Memphis is a place you should avoid traveling to altogether. On the contrary, like Tennessee's capital, Nashville, Memphis has a lot going for it in terms of music tourism. This is immediately apparent when you get off I-55 onto Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis, where the King of Rock 'n' Roll's former mansion, Graceland (now a museum), is located. The city also holds the birthplace of rock 'n' roll, Sun Studio, and the home of the blues, Beale Street, along with venues like the Smithsonian Institute's Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum. History further comes to life in the National Civil Rights Museum, located in the former Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

Any one of these places might justify a stopover in Memphis on your cross-country journey, but whether you're driving in Memphis or just driving through it, you'll want to have your seatbelt buckled and be mindful of the road and other cars.

Other cities to know about

Based on the U.S. Government's report, Knoxville is the next most dangerous place to drive in Tennessee, with Clarksville, Chattanooga, and the aforementioned Nashville also ranking among the 60 most unsafe cities for driving in the U.S. Outside Tennessee, cities like Albuquerque, New Mexico; Detroit, Michigan; Louisville, Kentucky; and Tucson, Arizona have likewise ranked high in studies of the most dangerous places to drive.

Two other cities in Arizona, Phoenix and Mesa, placed with Tucson in the top 10 in the U.S. News and World Reports study. Phoenix is another example of a city like Memphis that has more than one interstate or U.S. highway running through it. One of those is I-10, which stretches all the way from Santa Monica, California, to Jacksonville, Florida, the latter of which is yet another city that ranks among the ten most unsafe for driving. This suggests that at least some of the accidents in these cities may be the result of motorists speeding on the interstate.

By contrast, big cities like Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. surprisingly rank among the safest for driving. As National Geographic notes, rural areas can actually be more unsafe for driving than cities. Factors such as fewer state troopers to regulate speeding and increased response time for emergency medical services can contribute to more deaths in car accidents in such areas. Wherever you're driving — whether it be Memphis with Elvis on the radio or some other place in America — just stay safe.