Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Better Than You...

Today, the Portland Press Herald ran one of its more incisive pieces of investigative journalism. By which I mean they took a press release from a major insurance company, asked a few fluffy, man-in-the-street type questions, and published the thing as news:
Bad as it is to drive in Boston, folks in Massachusetts aren't America's most clueless about driving safely. They're just close.

Massachusetts drivers understand the rules of the road a bit better than drivers in New Jersey, the home to America's least knowledgeable drivers, according to a survey done by GMAC Insurance.

"Doesn't surprise me at all," said Ken Elias of Edgewater, N.J., who was driving to Acadia National Park on Friday. "There are a number of really rude drivers in Jersey. But, hey, it's great to be first in something."
Because this is a 'blog, and therefor unserious by definition (right? right?), I did a little, you know, analysis. And research.

The GMAC "unscientific study" of how well people in the 50 states know the rules of the road is valid, well, not at all. For anything. But that's ok--there's really nothing else to report on in this state, the nation or the world. This'll do.

The clear implication of the Press Herald article is that the "bottom five" "states" (Jersey, DC [sic], New Yawk, Massachusetts and Georgia) have much dumber and therefore more dangerous drivers than the rest of the country, particularly those in the top five (Kansas, Wyoming, Nebraska, Idaho and Minnesota). Those top fivers really know their rules!

Which made me ask the question, "And? Where am I more likely to die in a car crash?"

(Ed. Note: I'm something of an expert on wrecking vehicles, having flipped two cars and wrecked a motorcycle within the last 5 years.)

So I "googled" the "internets" to see if I could do what reporter Ed Murphy was incapable of doing: turning a meaningless story into an opportunity to discover something interesting, and, perhaps, notable. It was tough, but you can thank yr. humble corr. for coming through in the clutch (pun intended).

So, just how deadly are the states with poorly informed drivers (according to GMAC)? How safe are the "road-smart" states? Unless you live in the northeast, the answer will surprise you.

According to the U.S. Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics Reports, issued in August of 2007 (using 2004 data), here is the verdict:

The Five Safest States (including DC) to drive in are, from safest to deadliest [deaths per 100,000 residents]:

1. New Yawk [8.2]
2. Massachusetts [8.3]
3. D.C. [8.3]
4. New Jersey [8.9]
5. Rhode Island [9.2]

Using the logic of GMAC, what does this tell you? That I can't say, but what it tells me is that people in MA, NY, NJ and DC may not know the rules, but they do know how to drive.

The Five Deadliest States (including DC) to drive in are, from deadliest to safest [deaths per 100,000 residents]:

1. Mississippi [31.5]
2. Arkansas [28.3]
3. Alabama [27.8]
4. Montana [26.0]
5. New Mexico [25.2]

So, avoid those places I guess? (And myself, of course.)

Sorry to disappoint you, Ken Elias of Edgewater, N.J.; Jersey is no longer #1. World: Say hello to Mississippi. (Followers of Mississippi success stories will see the pattern here.) Take heart, Ken. Turns out folks in Jersey are actually pretty good behind the wheel, even though GMAC says they don't know what they're doing.

And what about GMAC's top 5? Deaths per 100,000:
Kansas, 18.3
Wyoming, 23.9
Nebraska, 16.1
Idaho, 17.9
Minnesota, 12.8
Meh. Of course, there are only about 100,000 people in Wyoming, so if you have six two-car accidents you're done. (I kid, I kid. I love the Cowboy State.)

This all works out, in my mind. I've lived all over the country and the worst drivers -- by far -- that I've ever encountered are in Utah. The Worst. In spite of the fact that they seemed almost universally to be oblivious, completely lacking in situational awareness, the death rate there is only 13.4. Must be the magic underwear.

As a corollary, while driving in the northeast can be harrowing at times, I've always felt like people know they're behaving poorly, other people expect it, and, for the most part, everyone watches out. It's pretty simple, actually. Just act like your mission is the most important mission.

And remember: Mass****s can smell fear. Drive proud.
Rte.1, Saugus, MA, 4:45p, Friday
Oh, and Ed? That research took me about 5 seconds.


Petrie & Trixie said...


Copy and paste if you will. Think you will enjoy it from both sides of the idea.

Petrie & Trixie said...


Look man I hate to keep dumping links on you but this one is a doozy. I read the Martyr entry and I got all goose bumpy. This man is a true leader and a cool writer.

By the way I think you should write for some publication. Anyone that will let you write the way you do.