is out with its rankings of the nation’s drivers. The best can be found in … the envelope please … Iowa.

Drivers in the Hawkeye State took over the top spot in the annual survey using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to rank all 50 states and the District of Columbia for the number of highway deaths attributed to drunken driving, careless driving, lack of seat belts and other risky behaviors.

Call it a coup for our neighbors to the south, taking the title from Minnesota, which had the distinction of having the nation’s best drivers for three years running.

The website, which allows people to compare insurance companies, also factored in each state’s fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, plus the degree to which motorists obeyed traffic signals and followed the speed limit. It gave each state a score ranging from 1 to 51 points in each category, with higher numbers given for better performance. States with the lowest combined score are deemed to have the worst drivers.

Iowa bested runner-up Minnesota by a 24-point margin. It’s not the Floyd of Rosedale trophy (given annually to the winner of the Minnesota-Iowa football game), but another win for Iowa in the rivalry between the two states.

Minnesota’s low overall fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (third overall) was the state’s best mark and comes as traffic deaths in 2017 are on pace to hit an all-time low. There were 346 in the state as of Friday, 44 fewer than the 390 on the same date last year.

Drivers in the North Star State ranked fifth best in the country in terms of fatal crashes attributed to speeding. That was a remarkable improvement from a mediocre 23rd in last year’s survey.

We slipped one spot when it came to wearing seat belts, a bit of a surprise since seat belt compliance of more than 94 percent (according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety) is one of the state’s strengths. Deaths caused by drunken drivers ranked Minnesota 36th worst in that category and allowed Iowa to move up in the rankings. Final score: Iowa 215, Minnesota 191.

Across the borders, Wisconsin finished in the middle of the pack at No. 20 and South Dakota checked in at 15th best. North Dakota continued its deplorable run of finishing in the Top 10 of worst drivers, a feat dating to 2013.

“Over 46 percent of the tragic traffic deaths that happen here involve a driver who isn’t in a physical state to be operating any sort of machinery, let alone a vehicle on a public road,” the study’s authors said.

Montana earned the dubious honor of having the worst drivers. Arizona came in second worst, followed by Louisiana, Texas and Nevada.

Where is Payne Avenue?

Drive reader Katie has noticed that on E. 7th Street in St. Paul there is no sign identifying Payne Avenue.

“Sure, if you’re an East Sider, you KNOW. But if you’re not, you can just keep going on 7th, and have no idea.”

The sign was removed during a construction project last fall that included installing new traffic signals. A temporary masthead was installed to get the signal operational, but the Payne Avenue sign was not replaced. A permanent masthead has arrived and crews will install it, along with the sign, this week, said Joe Ellickson of the St. Paul Public Works Department.


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