The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

10 April 2007

Swinging down the lane

Ja'Rena Lunsford at the Oklahoman seemed surprised at the results of a data dump by Men's Health that gave Oklahoma City's drivers a D, ranking 74th of 100 cities. Lunsford was especially critical of the third-place ranking given the City of New York, observing:

I've only been to New York a handful of times, but that was long enough to realize that city shouldn't be getting any accolades for good driving. If I recall correctly, I had a near death experience in a cab while I was trying to get to LaGuardia International Airport.

I've driven very little in the Big Apple, but I think Lunsford is underestimating their mad driving skillz: the fact that traffic moves at all struck me, in the middle of it one day, as well-nigh miraculous.

Of course, like all drivers, I consider myself above average. (And at least I have one piece of evidence to back me up: no moving violations in the past quarter-century.)

On a possibly-related note, some months back, Car and Driver put out some research of their own, in an effort to determine which states were most driver-friendly. I duly downloaded their 800k spreadsheet worth of data, and discovered Oklahoma right near the middle: 22nd place. (Alaska, a wide-open space indeed, took first; the District of Columbia was dead last.) The Sooner State picked up points for relatively low levels of traffic and for higher-than-average speed limits, and lost points for very high truck traffic and for below-average pavement quality (which, as Tom Elmore reminds us, is a direct result of very high truck traffic). And C/D editor Csaba Csere has a very Lunsford-like response to one of his data points:

Driving is safer than it's ever been, but there are still substantial differences among the states. In Mississippi, the highway death rate was 2.28 fatalities per 100 million vehicle-miles driven. In Massachusetts, it was barely a third of that, at 0.87. I suspect this says more about the higher willingness of Massachusetts drivers to buckle up than it does about their inherent driving talent, which was not obvious when I went to college in that state three decades ago.

Boston drivers in the Men's Health report placed 34th, scoring B-minus. Last time I drove through Boston, I remember thinking I'd rather be in New York.

Posted at 10:10 AM to Driver's Seat

I'm not surprised that Tennessee cities ranked poorly. Although I always hear visitors rave about how "good" TN drivers are compared to other places, one can't generalize anything from one experience. Just wait until you're forced to live in the place and commute to work.

Posted by: sya at 9:06 PM on 10 April 2007

I have just four words about Tennessee drivers: "Interstate 24 through Chattanooga."

Then again, two of the three interstates leading out of town up there, cross into Georgia. And two words I heard all the time in Chattanooga were "Georgia drivers."

And now that I live in Georgia, I have a much higher opinion of their Tennessee counterparts -- though I'd still rather not drive on Interstate 24 through Chattanooga.

Posted by: McGehee at 9:08 AM on 11 April 2007

All my experience in Tennessee is in the western third of the state. (Memphis drivers — well, never mind.)

Posted by: CGHill at 11:11 AM on 11 April 2007

...though I'd still rather not drive on Interstate 24 through Chattanooga.

I should have added: "(unless the alternative is any freeway around or through downtown Atlanta)."

Posted by: McGehee at 1:19 PM on 11 April 2007

There's a really interesting article about commuting in a recent issue of The New Yorker.

Posted by: Eulalie at 4:40 PM on 14 April 2007