Sun Shines on Nation's Worst Drivers

David C. Holzman
by David C. Holzman
Boston: not the worst?

According to Allstate’s latest annual “America’s Best Drivers Report,” three Massachusetts cities have the worst drivers. Allstate’s analysis included the nation’s 200 largest cities. But fear not, fellow Bay Staters: our Masshole reputation is undeserved, according to Slate Magazine. They have come up with their own top (worst) 40, and we’re way down the list.

We’ll tell you who those losers are. But first: here’s Slate’s critique of Allstate, followed by it’s own methodology.

Allstate bases its data on a single metric, average number of years between crashes, culled from its claims data. The company also insures a mere 10 percent of drivers in the US, including none in the Bay State. It considers neither fatalities, nor drunk driving, nor “other forms of vehicular mayhem” in its ratings, according to Slate.

Allstate also does not account for differences in annual miles. But “less mileage means fewer accidents, even if you’re a terrible driver,” says Slate writer Brian Palmer, who performed Slate’s investigation.

Palmer used four metrics: years between crashes, automotive fatalities, alcohol-related driving deaths, and pedestrian strikes. He made some adjustments, for example, for mileage (“San Franciscans average 6.5 years between crashes, but they drive 74 percent as many miles as the average for cities in our survey, so we lower their years-between-accidents to 4.8…”).

Palmer also made ample other adjustments in the data, as needed. For example, he weighted pedestrian strikes at less than the other three metrics, for 19 percent of the total, because he considered the former data somewhat weaker than the other three sets, which he weighted equally.

Palmer did not use ticketing statistics in the weighting “because they have more to do with policing than with the real rate of infractions,” he writes, noting, for example, that while Oregon’s arrest rate for driving under the influence was nearly triple that of Louisiana’s in 2011, “the Bayou state lost twice as many residents per capita as Oregon” to booze-infused car crashes. He added that there is no reason to think that tickets for running red lights or speeding are any more representative of real rates of infringement than DUI. Ticketing data is also difficult to obtain, writes Palmer, suggesting that cities fear “fluctuations will be viewed as cynical coffer-filling rather than safety initiatives.” Are we surprised?

Palmer does offer a major caveat on his findings: “…this isn’t a policy document. It’s a parlor game,” and he invites readers to come up with their own metrics. (I might have lumped all fatalities together. Whether or not booze is involved doesn’t make a difference if you’re dead.)

The major findings: Miami, with its vice and it’s heat, has the country’s worst drivers, followed by Philly, two more Florida cities, and Baltimore.

Miami has more fatalities and more pedestrian strikes than any other city. In fact, Miami had around 20 percent more ped strikes than the Big Apple—which ranks a mere 25th worst on Slate’s list—despite the fact that Manhattan’s streets churn with pedestrian mobs fighting their way across the turbulent flows of cars, buses, trucks, and taxis. (I have witnessed as many as eight taxis on a crowded Manhattan avenue, fighting with each other over every additional car length.)

And what of those cities with the bad reputations? Boston was safer, even, than Seattle ( (Caveat: the crowded, slow driving in Our Fair City, often on narrow, winding streets, reduces the odds of mayhem, and Boston, along with Newark and Providence, had fewer than 20 fatalities.) Sodom-on-the-Potomac (AKA Washington, DC), Allstate’s #1 for 2012, was #17 on Slate’s list.

Among states, Florida—and not Massachusetts—deserves the special prize. Five of the top ten worst cities are in the Sunshine State.

Holzman’s website is Motorlegends.com

David C. Holzman
David C. Holzman

I'm a freelance journalist covering science, medicine, and automobiles.

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  • Zip89123 Zip89123 on Sep 06, 2014

    Come to Vegas. Not the worst but definitely the most ignorant. The worst I've seen are transplanted New Yorkers in Florida. Sacramento is a close second.

  • CJinSD CJinSD on Sep 06, 2014

    Massachusetts was the first state to adopt no-fault auto insurance in 1970. 25 other states later adopted it. No-fault was supposed to reduce auto insurance rates, but instead the states that deployed it saw insurance costs increase 50% over conventional tort states. The least silly of the no-fault states abandoned it starting in the '80s and immediately saw their insurance costs drop. Massachusetts stayed the course, and has continued to see its drivers devolve into the wheeled equivalent of organized government employees.

    • See 2 previous
    • VoGo VoGo on Sep 07, 2014

      @mcs Again, MCS, You are trying to use logic and fact with a someone whose politics colors every post. CJinSD usually spends his time attacking the CA state government, where he at least has some local knowledge.

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