All your suspicions confirmed: Washington has nation’s worst drivers

August 28, 2013

Drivers in Washington, D.C. are more than twice as likely to get into traffic accidents than the national average, according to a new report, making residents of the nation’s capital the worst drivers in the country.

Washington residents go an average of just 4.8 years between accidents, according to Allstate’s America’s Best Drivers report. It’s the sixth year in a row that Washington has ranked at the bottom of Allstate’s annual survey, which relies on claims data filed with the Illinois-based insurance giant.

“I wouldn’t say it’s the worst, I’d say it’s the least best,” Adam Polak, an Allstate spokesman based in Arlington, said of Washington. “From looking at our data, drivers in Washington, D.C. on average have collisions more frequently.”

The data doesn’t conclude why drivers in Washington are worse than in other cities, but Polak suggested the capital’s busier lifestyle may be to blame. Washington residents, he said, are also much more likely to drive; more Washingtonians have cars than residents of other large cities, like New York.

Baltimore drivers aren’t much better. According to the data, Baltimore has the second-worst drivers in America; Charm City motorists experience a car accident every 5.4 years, 86 percent higher than the national average. Arlington and Alexandria were the 10th and 7th most crash-prone cities in the country, respectively.

Motorists in Fort Collins, Colo., are the safest in the nation, according to the report, going an average of 13.9 years between accidents. Fort Collins drivers are 28.2 percent less likely than the national average to have a wreck. It’s the third time in the nine years Allstate has been conducting the survey that Fort Collins was deemed the safest city in the nation.

The average American goes about 10 years between car accidents, Allstate reported. Drivers in Boise; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Brownsville, Tex.; Madison, Wis.; Reno, Nev.; and Huntsville, Ala. were all at least 20 percent less likely to experience an accident than the national average.

Residents in big cities are more likely to crash than those who live in smaller towns. The Phoenix area had fewer car accidents than any other metro area larger than 1 million people, but its drivers were still 2 percent more likely to get in an accident than the national average. Drivers in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New York were some of the most accident-prone drivers in the country, too.

RELATED: Washington’s Firsts and Worsts

Allstate uses a weighted average of data compiled over two years to determine annual percentages. The company defines a crash as any collision that results in a property damage claim. Allstate insures about 10 percent of Americans who have auto insurance.

Auto accidents are on the rise, according to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The number of fatalities resulting from auto accidents rose by 1,700 from 2011 to 2012.

But Washington drivers aren’t completely unsafe. A July report from the NHTSA showed 92.4 percent of District drivers used seat belts; more than 90 percent of drivers in 16 other states also remembered to buckle up. South Dakota drivers are the least likely to click it; just two-thirds of their drivers buckled up.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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Reid Wilson · August 28, 2013