For some reason, people can’t stop coming up with reasons to say Philadelphia has the worst drivers. Today, Allstate Insurance Company released its eighth annual “Best Drivers Report,” which ranks America’s 200 largest cities in terms of how frequently the average driver is involved in an auto collision. A lot of attention has been paid to the fact that Philadelphia was ranked 190th out of the 200 cities, but that doesn’t tell the whole story: Philadelphia actually did better than two of the most comparable cities (in terms of geography, public transportation usage, and traffic layout), Baltimore, MD, and Washington, DC.
More to the point, the report itself uses data for all collisions, which matters to an insurance company, but not for serious injury claims, which matters to people. All the report really shows is that, if you live in a big city, you can expect to get in at least a fender-bender once every couple of years: on average once every 7.9 years if you live in Chicago, once every 7.1 years in New York, and once every 6.1 years in Philadelphia.
Let’s not lose sight of what really matters: getting seriously hurt in an accident. As a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found, these very same compact metropolitan areas that result in more fender benders also result in fewer fatal accidents: “The rate for all ages in the 50 [major cities] was 8.2 deaths per 100,000 residents, lower than the national rate of 11.1 deaths per 100,000 residents.” As the CDC said, “motor vehicle crash death rates are higher in sprawling metropolitan areas than in compact metropolitan areas.”
As you can see on the CDC’s interactive map, the Philadelphia – Camden – Wilmington metropolitan area actually fared well: 7.3 deaths per 100,000 residents, much lower than the national average, lower than the Pennsylvania rate (10.0) and lower than the Delaware rate (11.7), though higher than the New Jersey rate (6.2). The Philadelphia area also did better than Pittsburgh (9.2).
Can we Philadelphians do better? Of course. But let’s not start blaming ourselves for being bad drivers or for living somewhere that’s unusually unsafe. Don’t let the insurance companies worries about paying out for some minor car repairs get you down. In terms of what really matters – the safety and health of our loved ones – Philadelphia is among the safer places to drive.
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