Thursday, May 10, 2007

America's best and worst drivers

Taking note of Christie's and Gina's recent bad experiences on the roadways, and searching for a blog topic that I don't have to do much thinking about following a long day of mowing and weeding, The Hill presents Men's Health magazine's "The Capitals of Crash", their study of America's best and worst cities for driving.

Men's Health explains their criteria:

To calculate our rankings, we included the rate of fatal accidents, as well as the deaths caused specifically by speeding, both from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In addition, we pulled city statistics on accident frequency from Allstate Insurance. And then we used statewide numbers on speeding from the Governors Highway Safety Association, plus NHTSA state data on seatbelt use. (Going without may be a sign of recklessness.)

Men's Health ranked 100 of the nation's major metropolitan areas. As with all such lists, the interpretation of the data can be subject to debate - at the least, it provides some interesting fodder for water-cooler conversations. Without further ado, the ten worst:

100 Columbia, SC F
99 St. Louis, MO F
98 Greensboro, NC F
97 Jackson, MS F
96 Cheyenne, WY F
95 Kansas City, MO F
94 Orlando, FL F
93 Charlotte, NC F
92 Nashville, TN D-
91 Corpus Christi, TX D-

I've never been to Columbia, South Carolina. But the two cities where I've driven the most, St. Louis and Nashville, as well as another where I've spent a lot of time, Kansas City, make the bottom ten.

St. Louisans are the all-time champions of running stop signs. Some traffic engineer in St. Louis got the bright idea to use stop signs as a form of speed control. St. Louis has over 1700 intersections with four-way stops. By comparison, Kansas City, with a similar population, has only 43. Because there's a stop sign on every corner, St. Louis drivers tend to ignore them. St. Louisans are so adept at the rolling stop that the Kansas City police call it a "St. Louis stop". I've long suspected that Kansas Citians have nothing to brag about, though, and this list would seem to provide evidence for that.

Nashville drivers are polite - often, too polite. Nashvillians are so concerned with their fellow driver that hardly a week doesn't go by that somebody gets rear-ended because they stopped suddenly to let another driver into traffic. Yet these highly conscientious drivers have a strange obsession with speeding. Give them the slightest stretch of open road, and they've got the hammer down. Some Nashville drivers claim that speed limits are an affront to their civil liberties; the rest just watch too much NASCAR.

The list of America's best cities should please our Iowa contingent:

10 San Jose, CA A-
9 Grand Rapids, MI A-
8 Buffalo, NY A
7 Minneapolis, MN A
6 St. Paul, MN A
5 San Francisco, CA A
4 Yonkers, NY A
3 New York, NY A+
2 Jersey City, NJ A+
1 Des Moines, IA A+

Yep, those laid-back folks up in Des Moines are Number One. Des Moines drivers are decent enough, but to me don't seem that much different from Wichita (ranked #84). Maybe it's because Wichitans are champion red-light runners. If you're in Wichita and you're the first car at a red light, wait a few seconds after you get the green. At least two or three cars will be coming through the intersection after their side turns red.

Jersey City, New York, and Yonkers rank 2-3-4. I guess that's because there's no room on the streets of metropolitan NYC for drivers to misbehave.

Of interest to Gina and Christie: Anaheim ranks #42, while Atlanta comes in at #62, thirty spots better than Nashville. Probably they're too rude to stop to let drivers cut in line there - Atlanta drivers make their own breaks.

Check out the full list by clicking the link.