Arizona Is One of the Most Dangerous States — but At Least We Beat Out Mississippi

With the gun culture going strong here in the desert, it's not hard to believe that Arizona is ranked the eighth most dangerous state in the country. But there's more to it than gun violence. 

To calculate the measure of which states are most dangerous, the data crunchers at the personal finance website WalletHub analyzed 20 metrics, including workplace accidents, traffic fatalities, crime rates, and natural disasters. 

Wallethub also analyzed the percentage of people who don't have health insurance, the unemployment rate, and the foreclosure rate to determine each state's financial security. While it may seem a counter-intuitive measure to include in a discussion of safety, research shows that people who are socially and economically disadvantaged run at least twice the risk of serious illness and premature death than those who are more financially stable.

"When people are looking for a safe place to live, they overestimate the danger from low-risk threats such as crime. Perceptions and fear about crime are always much worse than the actual frequency and risk of crime," said Jerry R. Paytas, an adjunct professor of regional economic development at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College, noting that the top three causes of death are heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory disease. "The factors that are the most severely underestimated are environmental and health factors. There are much bigger risks from disease."

Arizona didn't score too badly on natural disasters and workplace safety — 26th and 14th, respectively. It was road safety, community safety, and financial safety that really dragged the state's overall ranking down. 

State roads are the second most dangerous in the country (only Montana drivers are crazier). The number of people killed in traffic accidents dropped slightly from 2013 to 2014, but this year driving deaths are on the rise. In 2014, 774 people were killed and 50,890 people were injured on Arizona roadways, according to the state Department of Transportation. In just the first eight months of 2015, 596 people have died. 

The most common cause of Arizona road accidents is speeding, followed by failing to yield the right-of-way, alcohol, and distracted driving, ADOT reported. The state is one of only six that don't ban texting while driving.

For community safety, Arizona ranked 45th, ahead of Tennessee, Alaska, Michigan, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Arkansas.

(It's surprising to see politically progressive New Mexico worse on the dangerous scale than Arizona, but maybe the legendary TV show Breaking Bad was more literal than we thought.) 

To calculate the ranking, Wallethub analyzed the number of law enforcement employees and sex offenders per 100,000 residents, as well as murders and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rapes, assaults, thefts, and drug arrests. The suicide rate was also taken into account. 

Although at some point in the last five years Arizona murder and aggravated assault rates reached their lowest point in decades, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Statistics, the state's violent-crime rates remain higher than the national average in all categories, with the exception of robbery.

Arizona ranked 38th in financial safety.

State residents are less likely to have health insurance than every other state except Nevada and Texas.

Although Arizona's foreclosure rate is on the decline, it's still well above the national average. About 6.1 percent of the state's residents are unemployed.

Here are the top 10 safest states:

1) Massachusetts
2) Vermont
3) Minnesota
4) New Hampshire
5) Hawaii
6) Utah
7) Connecticut
8) Rhode Island
9) Virginia
10) Maine

And the states more dangerous than Arizona: 

45) Louisiana
46) Nevada
47) New Mexico
48) Tennessee
49) Oklahoma
50) South Carolina
51) Mississippi
Source: WalletHub

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Elizabeth Stuart
Contact: Elizabeth Stuart

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