Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Allstate report confirms the obvious

Note: This column appears in the 7/23 issue of The Glendale Star and the 7/24 issue of the Peoria Times

There are two things that the newcomer instantaneously realizes about the Valley: 1) it is hot, and 2) the drivers are awful.

I have written about the driving here before. To no avail, apparently, as little has changed. Thankfully, my opinions have recently been echoed and backed up with lukewarm evidence.

Allstate released its “America’s Best Drivers Report” last week. (In the car insurance world, this is the equivalent of the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit issue release. Except sexier.) If you haven’t read the report then I don’t want to ruin the ending, but let’s just say that we lost.

Not quite a surprise, considering that the most noise Valley residents make is in opposition to measures that make driving safer, like, oh I don’t know…traffic cameras. Still, for me personally, it feels good to know that Allstate has my back, and that I am not turning into an 80-year old man shaking my fist at passersby on the highway. Although I still do that.

The report considered 200 of the largest cities in the U.S. and based its rankings on car collision statistics. Glendale checked in at a modest 71st, earning the coveted black ribbon. According to the report, this means a Glendale driver is 3.6 percent more likely to be involved in an accident that the “average American motorist.” (The average American motorist is Pat Sajak. Weird, right?!)

Peoria is worse, ranking 88th (we are 7.7 percent more likely to bulldoze someone). And Phoenix was 95th, although that ranked No. 1 among American cities boasting a population over 1 million. The report failed to mention that a large percentage of accidents in Phoenix are avoided when drivers realize that there is nowhere to go in Phoenix and then turn around, illegally.

So even based on minimal information, the Valley is a dangerous place to operate a vehicle. I imagine that if there were a means to gather data that measured near collisions and an overall disregard for traffic laws and human life, the Valley would have ranked considerably lower than it did. This is, after all, one of the few states that doesn’t think helmets are a good idea and doesn’t mind people riding in the bed of pick-up trucks. As long as the gun rack is strapped in safely.

On the roads, it is still The Wild Wild West here. Horses have been replaced by monster pick-up trucks that have dragons on them and that sit absurdly high up on gigantic tires that take up eight lanes. If you have any piece of machinery with wheels, you can legally drive it on the roads here. People drive golf carts with license plates. (Absolute true story: Last summer I pulled into a Safeway in Sun City and at a four-way stop, a woman riding a golf cart with a confederate flag flying from it waved me through. That was the exact moment it hit me that I wasn’t in New Jersey anymore.)

So Allstate obviously did not consider everything when making these rankings. Ironically, they seem to take all of these factors into account when computing Valley car insurance rates, which remain some of the highest in the country. I don’t have Allstate, but last year I received a small discount for wearing a helmet when I drive my Subaru Impreza. Just so I fit in, it has a dragon on it.


That's me by the front tire. Wave!

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