A reader commenting on one of The Drive’s previous columns about zipper merging groused about the ineptitude of metro-area motorists, calling them the worst and most unskilled drivers he has seen anywhere in the country.

Not so, according to a national insurance company, which gave that dubious honor to drivers in Washington, D.C. Motorists in the nation’s capitol were more likely to get in a crash than drivers anywhere else.

A couple weeks ago, Allstate came out with its ninth annual America’s Best Driver’s Report, which ranked drivers in the 200 largest cities. The insurance company used accident and claims data over a two-year period from January 2010 to December 2011 to determine car collision frequency and identify the cities with the safest drivers.

On average, motorists will have a crash once every 10 years, according to the report, which was created to “boost awareness about the importance of being safe and attentive behind the wheel,” said Mike Roche, Allstate’s senior vice president of claims.

While drivers in Minneapolis and St. Paul are definitely not the worst, the report indicates that we are not as good as we used to be. St. Paul came in at No. 53, a decline of six notches from 2012 survey. Minneapolis checked in at No. 66, down nine spots from 2012.

Drivers in St. Paul came in just under the average, going 10.1 years between crashes.

Minneapolis drivers were slightly above the national average, going 9.9 years between mishaps. Allstate, which insures about 10 percent of the nation’s drivers, defined a crash as any collision resulting in a property damage claim.

For the record, the safest drivers were in Fort Collins, Colo. There, the average driver there will have a crash every 13.9 years and are 28.2 percent less likely to get in a mishap than the average driver.

Among cities in the Upper Midwest, Sioux Falls, S.D., came in as the third-safest city and Madison, Wis., was No. 5. Milwaukee was No. 23, Des Moines was No. 25.

When it comes to bad drivers, Providence, R.I., and Baltimore joined Washington, D.C., on the bottom of the list.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of traffic fatalities increased by more than 1,700 from 2011 to 2012.

That was the first year-over-year increase since 2005. Traffic deaths also rose in Minnesota, with 395 recorded in 2012, up from 7 percent from 368 in 2011.

The number of crashes declined statewide from 72, 117 in 2011 to 69,236 in 2012.

But in the metro area, results were mixed. Dakota, Carver, Ramsey and Washington counties reported increases in the number of crashes from 2011 to 2012 while Hennepin, Scott and Anoka counties reported slight declines, according data from the Department of Public Safety’s Office of Traffic Safety (OTS).

What stands out more is that Allstate’s research found that 70 percent of mishaps happen at speeds of less than 35 miles per hour.

“The most frequent collisions happen during minor fender benders,” Roche said.

According to the OTS, the leading factors in crashes in Minnesota in 2012 were driver inattention/distraction, failure to yield right of way, and illegal or unsafe speed.


Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.