Commuters who travel to and from work daily on Idaho’s interstate highways might think they’ve entered the Twilight Zone – congestion, delays, impatient drivers… In reality, they are traveling among the most knowledgeable and safest drivers in the nation.
Two reports released recently confirm that Idaho drivers know what they’re doing on the highways and that crashes are far below the national norm.
Idaho drivers ranked No. 4 in terms of their knowledge of driving laws and safe practices in a survey conducted by GMAC Insurance on behalf of the Insurance Institute. The test results were released May 26, indicating that the Pacific Northwest leads the nation and that drivers in the Northeast are least knowledgeable.
In that test, Oregon drivers ranked No. 1, followed Washington, Iowa and Idaho. The remainder of the top 10 included (in order) Wyoming, Vermont, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Montana and West Virginia (tie for ninth).
The bottom of the driver’s barrel belongs to California, 43; Maryland, 44; District of Columbia, 45; New York, 45; New Jersey 47; Massachusetts, 48; and Rhode Island?
What does that mean?
“Results of a study… suggest that millions of Americans lack basic knowledge of rules of the road and safe automobile operation,” according to the report (click here). “In fact, the study shows that if tested today, one in 10 drivers – nearly 20 million Americans – would fail a state drivers test. Furthermore, the study evaluated Americans’ everyday driving habits, unveiling dangerous driving behaviors.”
The study prompted a discouraging assessment by Susan Ferguson, PhD, senior vice president of research for the International Institute for Highway Safety: “As a nation of drivers, we’ve made little progress in the past 10 years to curb some of the most dangerous driving behaviors, including drinking and driving and speeding… This study underscores the importance of safer driving habits and more consistent law enforcement.”
The exception is the Pacific Northwest, including Idaho, where drivers know and generally practice safe driving behaviors.
Allstate Insurance Co confirmed that this week in a separate study. That study reviewed the top 200 metropolitan areas in the country. Boise drivers ranked 12th in terms of the average years between accidents (11.8) and the likelihood of becoming involved in a crash, compared to the national average (15.33 percent).
Of the cities that received better marks, only two have larger populations, Birmingham, Ala., which ranked 10th and has a population of 236,620, and Des Moines, Iowa, which placed sixth and has a population of 196,093.
Other Pacific Northwest cities ranked among the safest 35 were Eugene at 31 and Spokane at 35. Vancouver, Wash., was ranked 68th, followed by Salem at 91st and Portland at 97th.
The most hazardous places to drive? Not Eagle Road in Meridian, Yellowstone Ave. in Idaho Falls or Government Way in Coeur d’Alene. It’s around the nation’s capital. Arlington, Va., was 193th, Alexandria, Va., 194, Newark, N.J., 195 and Washington, D.C. 196 (rated worst on the list).
The next time you wonder if the driver in front of you got his license from a cereal box, breathe deep, wave politely and be thankful you don’t live on the East Coast.