Statistics say we're good drivers, but consider the context

  • Article by: KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 22, 2014 - 9:20 AM

Minnesota drivers rank among the nation's best, according to various sources. No, really. Well, kind of.

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Photo: JIM GEHRZ • jgehrz@startribune.com,

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We’re not sure how to break this to all of you, especially those who’ve moved to Minnesota and can’t stop complaining about the way we drive. But we’re the fourth-best motorists in the country.

(If you’re reading this on your phone in traffic, you’d better pull over now.)

Minnesota is topped only by New Hampshire (3), Utah (2) and Vermont (1) when ranked in categories determined by several sources, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Motorists Association, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

You want evidence?

• For fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, we have the second fewest. The most? Montana. The least? Massachusetts — which, we must point out, is a thumbprint compared to the Big Sky State.

• For drunken driving, we’re the 19th most moderate, which frankly isn’t saying much. The highest percentage of alcohol-related traffic deaths? Montana. The lowest? Utah.

• For traffic tickets, mostly speeding, we clock in at 26th. The state issuing the most tickets? Nevada. The fewest? Wyoming — which, we must point out, raises questions of enforcement. Who drives slow across Wyoming?

• For careless driving, determined by pedestrian and bicyclist fatality rates per 100,000 residents, we’re the seventh safest, with a rate of .82 — which, of course, is .82 too many. Vermont is the safest, at .48 deaths. But the worst, oh my goodness, is Florida, with 3.23 deaths.

You may perceive by now, as Mark Twain once noted, that there are “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” In other words, numbers tell a story, but context is important.

That being said, these numbers were crunched by a website, www.carinsurancecomparison.com, to make the point that living in a state with careless/drunken/speeding drivers could drive up your state’s insurance rates.

All in all, the No. 4 rating makes sense to Brad Estochen of the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s traffic safety division. For instance, our seatbelt use is almost 94 percent, “and that’s pretty amazing.”

“In general, we’re pretty conservative drivers,” Estochen said. “We don’t have the aggression you might get on the East Coast, the swagger of a New York cabdriver. We’re a more passive type of driver.”

Which explains most of those complaints.

 

Kim Ode • 612-673-7185

 

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