RICHMOND, MAY 26 -- Virginia's traffic problems in many ways are worse than those of California, a new report says.

According to the report by the nonprofit Institute for Educational Leadership, Virginia ranks seventh in vehicle miles traveled per licensed driver each year, with 13,137 miles. California, infamous for its traffic jams, ranks 24th.

Virginia also ranks fifth in the number of cars registered per 1,000 drivers, with a figure of 663. California comes in at 21st, the report said.

"The state has a very small number of miles of roadway and a very large number of licensed drivers who are driving an even larger number of cars a very large number of miles each year," said the report, prepared by Harold L. Hodgkinson.

The report, commissioned by Virginia Tech, shows that although Virginia ranks high in the number of licensed drivers as a percentage of population and the miles they travel, it ranks only 32nd in the number of roadway miles, with 65,802.

The numbers form an equation that could add up to economic disaster, the report said.

"Without some very quick thinking in Richmond, Virginia could have gridlock in the Washington, D.C., suburbs that could rival Los Angeles," Hodgkinson wrote.

He added: "Anyone . . . who has lived in both states can testify to the danger of ignoring the ominous signs that in terms of traffic, Northern Virginia already has become 'Los Angelized,' and that Norfolk and Richmond may not be far behind."

The ability of the state to attract new business will be diminished should state policymakers fail to address growing traffic problems, the report said. The report also said Virginia's economic development efforts will be hampered unless the state takes steps to improve education, particularly the rising high school dropout rate.

"Virginia is one of the few places in the country with a continuous supply of high school graduates . . . but there is at least 26 percent who won't ever go to college, because they drop out of high school," Hodgkinson said.

"In a state with all that Virginia has going for it, there ought to be a way to improve that," he said.