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Discover the 6 Most Dangerous Places in the United States

Written by Eliana Riley
Updated: July 10, 2023
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When people describe the most dangerous areas in the United States, they typically mention urban centers in which crime is common. However, other hazardous places can be as dangerous as areas that experience violent crime. For example, hurricanes may claim thousands of lives in one sweep, such as Hurricane Katrina, which resulted in over 1,500 fatalities in 2005. Furthermore, car accidents appear to be within the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. Discover the top 6 most dangerous places in the United States and find out which U.S. cities experience the most crime.

6 most dangerous places in the United States
These six places are dangerous because of the rates of natural disasters, accidents, and crime.

Top 3 Most Dangerous Places in the United States

The top three most dangerous places in the United States account for many factors, such as weather patterns and road safety. Although some hazards in these areas can be mitigated by responsible residents and visitors, other threats are not within human control. Below describes the three most dangerous U.S. locations, not accounting for criminal activity.

3. Ocean County, New Jersey

Aerial Drone of Ocean City New Jersey
Ocean County in New Jersey experiences more natural disasters than anywhere else in the U.S.
Image: FotosForTheFuture, Shutterstock


According to Time Magazine, Ocean County, New Jersey experiences more natural disasters than anywhere else in the country. Ocean County records a disaster index of 223.7, which far surpasses the disaster indexes of other counties prone to natural disasters. In fact, the second-most dangerous county for natural disaster occurrence–Orange County, California–has a disaster index of 180.8. Orange County’s disaster index lies well below that of Ocean County.

Hurricane from space. Satellite view. Super typhoon over the ocean. The eye of the hurricane. View from outer space. Some elements of this image furnished by NASA
Ocean County, New Jersey is susceptible to a variety of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, making it one of the most dangerous places in the United States.


While Ocean County reports a moderate natural disaster risk score of 43%, the number of natural disasters within the last two decades in the area amounts to 29. Severe storm activity, including both rainfall and snowfall, threatens the region. In addition, hurricanes, such as Hurricanes Sandy, Ida, and Irene, seem to plague Ocean County. Finally, floods and fires are not infrequent in this area. Over the last 56 years, three intense fires and four floods have struck Ocean County.

2. I-5 California

A sign for Interstate 5 in California
California’s I-5 interstate highway is the most dangerous road in the country.
Image: Joseph Sohm, Shutterstock

©Joseph Sohm/

The most dangerous road in the United States is the I-5 interstate in California. While the interstate stretches an impressive 796.77 miles long through the state, the most hazardous portion of the highway lies in San Diego County. Between 2015 and 2019, the San Diego portion of I-5 resulted in 99 fatal car accidents in which 110 people died.

Throughout the entire state, though, the interstate claimed 584 lives within the same period. For every 100 fatal accidents between 2015 and 2019, approximately 107 people lost their lives. Therefore, I-5 in California is by far the most dangerous road according to the death toll.

However, another dangerous highway in the U.S. rivals I-5. Route 1 in the state of Florida recorded only 14 fewer car crash-related fatalities between 2015 and 2019 than those reported by I-5. Thus, it’s possible that Florida’s Route 1 could surpass 1-5 as the most dangerous roadway in America in the future.

Vehicle Crashes / Malfunctions
584 people lost their lives on Interstate 5 in California within a period of four years due to fatal car accidents.


1. National Parks

National parks within the United States feature beautiful landscapes and stunning, diverse wildlife. However, some parks pose dangers to human life. While many fear grizzly bear attacks or wildfires, these threats are not as common as car accidents, medical-related deaths, or drowning within national parks. For instance, 385 drownings occurred between 2014 and 2021 in America’s national park system, but Lake Mead National Recreation Area accounted for more drownings than any other national park with 47 fatalities.

On the other hand, Grand Canyon National Park claimed almost 100 lives within the same timeframe. Nearly half of the fatalities reported at the Grand Canyon resulted from medical causes. Including Lake Mead and the Grand Canyon, the list of the top five most dangerous national parks also features Yosemite, the Great Smokey Mountains, and the Natchez Trace Parkway. The categories that account for the largest portion of deaths in these parks were medical-related and motor vehicle crash fatalities.

Lake Mead
Lake Mead reported 47 drownings between 2014 and 2021, making it the national park with the most drownings in the entire country.


Summary of the Top 3 Most Dangerous Places in the United States

CharacteristicsOcean CountyI-5 CaliforniaNational Parks
DangersNatural disastersCar accidentsCar accidents, medical-related deaths, wildlife, wildfires, and drowning
Frequency29 recorded natural disasters over 20 years544 fatal car crashes over four yearsOver 2,000 deaths over seven years
StatisticsDisaster index: 223.7 Risk score: 43%107 deaths for every 100 fatal accidentsMotor vehicle crashes: 415 deaths Medical: 402 deaths Drowning: 385 deaths

Top 3 Most Dangerous Cities in the United States

While roads, natural disasters, and national parks have proven dangerous, crime also remains important in determining unsafe areas in the United States. Crime is typically most present in urban areas with high population densities. More people within an area may result in more criminal activity, as opposed to rural areas in which people are dispersed further from one another. Below outlines the top three most dangerous cities in the United States, including statistics on violent crime.

3. St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis, Missouri’s primary industries include distribution and transportation. The city’s placement on the Mississippi River allows for the transport of certain goods by waterway, including coal, chemicals, grain, and more. Some other industries that support the economy of St. Louis are finance, education, manufacturing, and health care. In addition, the city features attractions like state parks, historic sites, and sports teams, such as the St. Louis Cardinals Major League Baseball team.

St. Louis takes the #3 spot on the list of the top three most dangerous cities in the United States. The city is safer than only 1% of other neighborhoods in the country. In addition, the number of annual violent crimes in the city measures 4,387, giving St. Louis a violent crime rate per 1,000 residents of 14.96.

The city’s total crime rate, including violent and property crimes, sits at an even 70.00. While St. Louis records a higher total crime rate than the second-most dangerous city in the U.S., its violent crime rate is lower. Therefore, St. Louis may experience more property crimes than other dangerous cities, but it is not as dangerous to residents and visitors as cities with high violent crime rates.

Furthermore, the chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime in St. Louis are 1 in 67 with assault being the most common form of violent crime and murder the least common. Around 3,244 assaults occur every year in the city, and the assault rate per 1,000 residents lies at 11.06.

In addition, 311 crimes occur for every square mile of St. Louis. Although the city records a higher rate of crime per square mile than the top two most dangerous U.S. cities, St. Louis only covers 61.74 square miles in total area. On the other hand, the most dangerous and second-most dangerous cities cover 324.0 mi2 and 142.89 mi2, respectively.

St. Louis, Missouri, USA downtown cityscape on the river at dusk.
St. Louis, Missouri is the third-most dangerous city in the country with a total crime rate of 70.00 and a violent crime rate of 14.96 per 1,000 residents.

©Sean Pavone/

2. Detroit, Michigan

Detroit, Michigan sits on the Detroit River on the eastern side of the state of Michigan. The city’s main industries include manufacturing and shipping. However, the most valuable good manufactured in Detroit is automobiles. In fact, the city’s economy relies heavily on automotive manufacturing, so much so that its lack of diversified industries often makes Detroit susceptible to economic depressions.

In addition, some attractions in Detroit include festivals, museums, parks, and sports teams. The Detroit Lions are a National Football League team that supports entertainment in the city, and the Red Wings National Hockey League team has seen many victories. Institutions of higher education in Detroit include the University of Detroit Mercy, Wayne State University, and more. The city also features the Henry Ford Museum, which pays homage to the man that reinvented automotive manufacturing in the United States.

Detroit is the second-most dangerous city in the United States with a crime index of 1, making the city safer than 1% of other neighborhoods in the country. The number of annual violent crimes in Detroit measures 14,589, and the violent crime rate per 1,000 residents is 23.07. The chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime in Detroit are 1 in 43. Like the other most dangerous cities in America, assault is the most common form of violent crime. Finally, the total crime rate per 1,000 residents sits at 59.01, and the city reports 268 crimes per square mile.

Aerial view of downtown Detroit at twilight in Michigan USA
The chances of being a victim of a violent crime in the second-most dangerous city in the U.S., Detroit, Michigan, are 1 in 43.


1. Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis, Tennessee lies in West Tennessee near the Mississippi River. The total area of Memphis measures 324 square miles, and the population of the city numbers 628,127, as of 2021. The economy of Memphis is characterized by its diverse industries. For instance, distribution thrives in the city, but agriculture and food processing are also prominent Memphis industries.

Beale Street is an attraction in the city that features entertainment, live music, food, and shops. Furthermore, the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, lies in Memphis. Finally, various sports teams, festivals, and educational institutions can be encountered in the city. Perhaps one of Memphis’s most important contributions is its title as the birthplace of the rock and roll genre of music, as Elvis Presley began his career in the city at Sun Studio.

While Memphis features various attractions, historical landmarks, and educational opportunities, it holds the title of the most dangerous city in the United States. Memphis’s crime index measures 0, meaning the city is not safer than any other city in the country. In addition, nearly 16,000 violent crimes occur in Memphis annually, and the violent crime rate per 1,000 residents measures 25.15. By comparison, the national median violent crime rate per 1,000 residents is 4.

Furthermore, the chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime in Memphis are 1 in 40, and assault is the most common form of violent crime perpetrated in the city at 13,032 assaults per year. The number of total annual crimes in the city measures at 50,566 with a total crime rate of 80.50. Finally, Memphis experiences 156 crimes per square mile. Compared to the national median of 26.8 crimes per square mile, Memphis is an extremely dangerous place to live.

Memphis, Tennessee ranks as the #1 most dangerous city in the nation with a violent crime rate of 25.15 per 1,000 residents and a crime index of 0.


Summary of the Top 3 Most Dangerous Cities in the United States

StatisticsMemphis, TennesseeDetroit, MichiganSt. Louis, MissouriNational Median/Average
Crime Index011N/A
Annual Violent Crimes15,79814,5894,3871.3 million
Violent Crime Rate (per 1,000 residents)25.1523.0714.964
Chances of Becoming a Victim of Violent Crime1 in 40 (2.5%)1 in 43 (2.3%)1 in 67 (1.5%)0.93%
Most Common Violent Crime and Rate (per 1,000 residents)Assault (20.75)Assault (18.88)Assault (11.06)Assault (2.84)
Total Crime Rate (per 1,000 residents)80.5059.0170.0041.29
Crimes per Square Mile15626831126.8

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About the Author

I'm Ellie, and I am a full-time college student at Miami University. I enjoy writing, copy editing, and being involved in journalism. I write for The Miami Student newspaper as an opinion columnist. My favorite animals are fish, rabbits, and cats.

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