Bad drivers: we’ve all had to deal with them at one time or another. Many people feel like their cities often have “the worst drivers,” even when statistics say otherwise. The names of the worst states for driving are probably not that surprising: California, Florida, Louisiana, and Michigan. So it stands to reason that these states have the worst drivers in America, right?
Not necessarily, as it turns out.
According to a recent study, the common stereotypes and jokes about bad drivers and certain states may not hold up to scrutiny. According to the study, over 83% of drivers in America actually have a clean driving record. Those who have violations typically get them from either speeding tickets or at-fault accidents.
Not only that, but many of the states with the worst reputations for driving actually have some of the best drivers in terms of their records.
A prime example is New Jersey, which often ranks in the top three “worst driving states” right behind California. This is even reflected in their car insurance rates, which, according to Ross Martin from The Zebra, are over $1450 a year — 4% above the national average. This statistic takes on new character when you find out over 86% of New Jersey’s drivers have a clean record.
This is also true of Michigan, which has the most drivers with clean records in the entire country, yet also frequently makes top ten lists of worst states to drive in — and Michigan’s auto insurance rates are some of the highest in the nation.
Another area where stereotypes and expectations meet reality is teen drivers. As any parent can tell you, teenage drivers almost uniformly have the highest insurance premiums around — simply put, they’re considered one of the highest-risk groups when it comes to auto insurance claims, a position which is often justified.
That said, though, some states fare much better when it comes to insurance for teen drivers than others. Of all the states, Hawaii has the lowest premiums for teen drivers, and Connecticut the highest. Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas have some of the highest teen DUI ratings in the country, as well as some of the highest instances of teen driver fatalities.
So what’s unusual about this? As it turns out, New York, New Jersey and Kentucky, some of the states with reputations for being “bad driving” states — with the insurance premiums to prove it — have records for the best teen drivers in the country.
In fact, this correlation exists for many of the states considered particularly hazardous: Connecticut, Louisiana, and Oregon all have superior records for teen drivers. New York in particular, tops the list of the best teen drivers in the country. And, sure enough, many of these states rank in the top 10 for the highest auto insurance rates in the country.
So what conclusions can we draw from this?
For one, when it comes to insurance, there’s an implication that age and driving records aren’t the primary determining factor when it comes to assessing risk. There are a number of other factors that come into play, including:
- Age and gender
- Years of experience
- History of claims and previous insurance coverage
- Vehicle type and purpose (personal, commercial, etc.)
- Miles driven
- The presence of security or anti-theft devices for vehicles
This is before one accounts for factors like deductibles, types of coverage, and so on. When it comes to your driving record, you’ll generally land in one of three categories:
- Preferred (a clean record for the last 3-5 years)
- Standard (for those with an average driving record)
- Nonstandard (for a history of tickets and poor driving)
When it comes to rates for teen drivers, there’s the aforementioned greater tendency toward risky or reckless driving behavior, whether driven by peer pressure or the impetuousness of youth. There’s also the factor of driving experience — a teenager has a ways to go before they have 3-5 years of any driving experience, much less a clean driving record for that long.
But what about traffic safety? America’s roads can be notoriously dangerous, and the common conception is that urban areas are more dangerous because of high traffic, population density, and other factors. But are traffic accidents more common there?
As it turns out, over half of the nation’s traffic fatalities occur in rural areas. Statistically speaking, you’re in greater danger of being in a fatal accident while driving in the country. Factors influencing this include frequent alcohol use, speeding, dangerous rural roads, and less frequent use of seat belts.
It’s unlikely that auto insurers are going to flip how they assess risk and assign premiums. Although it would stand to reason that insurers would set higher premiums for areas with high traffic fatality rates and lower premiums for teen (and adult) drivers with perfect driving records, it just goes to show our expectations do not always meet with reality.