The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates there were 3.8 million injuries caused by traffic accidents on American roads in 2013, which is actually down 2 percent from 2012. There were 35,200 fatalities as a result of these crashes.
The NSC blamed human error on 90 percent of these incidents, which can range from texting-while-driving to ignoring traffic signals. Teenagers, who today have the benefit of taking free permit practice tests online, are also blamed for their inexperience and inattention while on the road.
It’s always an adventure when traveling the roads of large U.S. cities, but some are worse than others. But make especially sure you buckle up and pay attention in these three municipalities.
The likelihood of getting into a car accident in the District of Columbia is 107.3 percent higher than the national average, according to the 2011 Allstate annual best drivers report. Further, the average American gets into an accident very 10 years, while drivers in D.C. can expect some kind of fender-bender once every 4.8 years.
Part of the problem can be attributed to overpopulation. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute ranked D.C. as the worst city in American for traffic congestion. Drivers there waste about 67 hours per year stuck in traffic, costing them about $1,400 in gas and time.
George Katsotis, a salesman in the city, told the Washington Post his commute from Dupont to Rock Circle takes about a half hour if he leaves before 6 a.m., but will take upward of 90 minutes if he waits until 8. Dorothy Howe, another D.C. resident, said she simply gave up trying to navigate through parking lot-like conditions on the roads and started taking trains.
City leaders have pondered higher tolls and gas taxes to ease traffic, but conditions have steadily worsened in the 21st century.
A 2013 survey by CarInsuranceComparison.com, which measured factors like DUIs and traffic fatalities per capita, ranked Louisiana as the state with the worst drivers. New Orleans gives the state a boost for this dubious distinction.
Bette Anding, writing for the Time-Picayune, suggests that some of the poor driving is due to the relative newness of the Pontchartrain Expressway, Interstate 10, and the Causeway. Older drivers in New Orleans learned to drive on dirt roads, thus have not adjusted to hustle-and-bustle of paved freeways. But Slate.com simplified matters, blaming New Orleans’ (and Baton Rouge’s) bad driving reputation to the large number of drunken driving fatalities year-after-year.
There are two things working against drivers in Arizona’s largest city. First, the state DMV issues licenses that are good until you turn 65. In other words, you only need to get a license once in your life, but are required to visit the DMV every 12 years to update your photo.
Second, researchers at Northwestern University found a positive correlation between rising temperatures and anger. The average high temperature from June to September in Phoenix is right around 102 degrees. Arizona also has very relaxed gun laws, with the Legal Community Against Violence rating it the most gun-friendly state.
Road rage incidents in the state seem to happen every day. John Chester Stuart was sentenced to 18 years in prison in January for shooting a man during a 2008 road rage incident in North Phoenix. Another incident was caught on tape this past September that showed a man being shot after apparently cutting someone off on the road.
A rule of thumb in Phoenix: mind your own business while driving and don’t look at the drivers next to you.