2016 Safest Cities to Drive in the U.S.

by Douglas Burger

If you were to ask 10 people about what makes a good driver, you would probably come away with 10 different answers. We went a different route and asked what makes a city a good and safe place to drive. Using 18 data points detailed below, we searched for the answer.

Here is how 166 cities with qualifying data stacked up in the five separate categories we studied. In all rankings below, a lower number is better than a higher number.

Overall Rank

CityQuality of RoadsImpaired DrivingPassenger SafetyEase of CommuteCosts of Driving

1

Rochester, MN47471119

2

Duluth, MN724714121

3

Lynchburg, VA1032546471

4

Springfield, IL8957242725

5

Binghamton, NY1622163029

6

Roanoke, VA1062546622

7

Peoria, IL9457245522

8

Medford, OR66214216108

9

Pocatello, ID6263841236

10

Flagstaff, AZ1976891367

11

Richmond, VA8925461023

12

Sioux City, IA107826477

13

Lewiston, ID686384646

14

Waterloo, IA113826438

15

Walla Walla, WA1093051126

16

Syracuse, NY1652166130

17

La Crosse, WI9811438205

18

Grand Junction, CO6341702877

19

Minneapolis, MN5547112553

20

Athens, GA9357849112

21

Mansfield, OH8586503433

22

Dubuque, IA130826494

23

Rochester, NY1502169638

24

Burlington, VT15771123532

25

Columbus, GA5357839150

26

Evansville, IN4472745365

27

Salt Lake City, UT3149122135

28

Boise City, ID5963848524

29

Youngstown, OH8986507715

30

Macon, GA5357854145

31

Atlantic City, NJ1609137958

32

Yakima, WA8230548154

33

Albany, NY16121611527

34

Reno, NV2506865141

35

Green Bay, WI115114385013

36

Madison, WI8011438926

37

Akron, OH8686509712

38

Fort Wayne, IN5372748846

39

Rockford, IL10557249058

40

Portland, ME13781584514

41

South Bend, IN5772746375

42

Pueblo, CO61417031139

43

Wichita Falls, TX29126123463

44

San Angelo, TX26126123565

45

Columbia, MO95118991917

46

Waco, TX391261232040

47

Augusta, GA43578102129

48

Buffalo, NY16421611057

49

Santa Maria, CA124112832157

50

Savannah, GA8357886145

51

Dayton, OH7786508456

52

Abilene, TX281261231068

53

Tucson, AZ17768914033

54

Columbus, OH56865012143

55

Eugene, OR109214269122

56

Topeka, KS74791164650

57

Fairbanks, AK1087977148

58

Victoria, TX451261234330

59

Cincinnati, OH75865013522

60

Worcester, MA143281012662

61

Redding, CA138112833162

62

Gainesville, FL1410610839105

63

Des Moines, IA11682642984

64

Midland, TX251261232579

65

Santa Maria, CA129112857157

66

Lincoln, NE75142875228

67

Toledo, OH79865011654

68

Colorado Springs, CO68417095111

69

Fort Smith, AR641221473517

70

Olympia, WA14730573131

71

Salem, OR112214299116

72

Lubbock, TX271261231897

73

Brownsville, TX331261237042

74

Huntsville, AL321441187137

75

Raleigh, NC96941031019

76

Fresno, CA128112874163

77

Asheville, NC117941036625

78

Greensboro, NC101941039315

79

Wilmington, NC109941036438

80

Spokane, WA117305105152

81

Las Vegas, NV15068139153

82

Deltona, FL1410610872112

83

Bakersfield, CA126112883165

84

Muskegon, MI120525960123

85

Grand Forks, ND51164144254

86

Amarillo, TX311261234296

87

Boston, MA140281016084

88

Cleveland, OH86865012872

89

Lansing, MI123525959131

90

Williamsport, PA15566923874

91

Stockton, CA132112891163

92

Atlanta, GA113578153149

93

Springfield, MO97118996746

94

Charlotte, NC929410313111

95

Phoenix, AZ12768915599

96

Knoxville, TN469913810940

97

Corpus Christi, TX341261238269

98

Montgomery, AL201441188171

99

Tallahassee, FL1210610875133

100

San Diego, CA1271128112159

101

Portland, OR1002142151124

102

Erie, PA15966924478

103

Nashville, TN369913814917

104

Cheyenne, WY581571641549

105

Anchorage, AK11979778144

106

Tampa, FL710610813094

107

Denver, CO674170148120

108

Fargo, ND521641445135

109

Casper, WY881571642417

110

Pensacola, FL10106108100127

111

Chattanooga, TN41991389481

112

Grand Rapids, MI130525998116

113

El Paso, TX2412612310681

114

Memphis, TN209913814164

115

Jacksonville, FL14106108120114

116

Indianapolis, IN507274147120

117

Wichita, KS727911689108

118

Great Falls, MT341611611495

119

Sacramento, CA1341128134160

120

Bismarck, ND481641442388

121

Albuquerque, NM2310515111379

122

Flint, MI1215259108136

123

Orlando, FL18106108146101

124

Austin, TX4212612314445

125

Milwaukee, WI9811438124107

126

Chicago, IL1135724159130

127

Los Angeles, CA1241128161160

128

New York, NY162913165136

129

Hartford, CT1584521129134

130

St. Louis, MO931189913643

131

Baltimore, MD1465715145127

132

Seattle, WA145305157155

133

Kansas City, MO811189911975

134

Providence, RI166624133136

135

Omaha, NE831428787102

136

Missoula, MT641611611798

137

Mobile, AL4214411810790

138

San Francisco, CA1351128162166

139

Sioux Falls, SD1041591523750

140

Birmingham, AL3614411812386

141

Bridgeport, CT1544521150139

142

Allentown, PA153669211487

143

San Antonio, TX4012612313793

144

Pittsburgh, PA156669212781

145

Lexington, KY8410314275118

146

Billings, MT3016116126147

147

Rapid City, SD1021591522291

148

Little Rock, AR7012214710291

149

Greenville, SC701501586888

150

Columbia, SC6015015811161

151

Miami, FL22106108156150

152

Charleston, SC5415015813150

153

Dallas, TX36126123158100

154

Detroit, MI1215259164155

155

Houston, TX49126123166104

156

Philadelphia, PA1496692152119

157

Honolulu, HI13912523154143

158

Louisville, KY77103142138124

159

Huntington, WV14812412258142

160

Shreveport, LA1411531548072

161

Lake Charles, LA14215315456108

162

Jackson, MS14314116611758

163

Tulsa, OK135148149118102

164

Oklahoma City, OK132148149143105

165

Baton Rouge, LA15115315416369

166

New Orleans, LA152153154141115

Top (and Bottom) Five Cities for:

There’s no question that driver safety is near the top (if not the top) priority for U.S. cites, but many of them certainly have room for improvement. Let’s take a look at where these cities ranked in three categories of importance in our study: weather, rush hour and theft.

Precipitation

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 22% of all vehicle crashes are weather-related. Precipitation affects roadway capacity, traffic speed, travel time delay and accident risk. For this data point, we looked at the average number of days annually when there is precipitation of .01 inch or more. Cities with less precipitation (Las Vegas/first) scored better marks than cities with a lot of precipitation (Huntington/last).

Commute Time

For some people, precious extra minutes of sleep in the morning can mean the difference of having a good day or a bad day. That means less time spent in traffic on your way to work. We took a look at average travel time it takes a commuter to get to the office. Workers in New Orleans spend almost three times as many minutes (35.2) getting to work than those in Grand Forks, N.D. (13.1)

Rate of Theft

For most people, a vehicle is essential do their daily lives. People drive to work, pick their kids up from school and run errands. Because of a vehicle’s importance, we wanted to look at the theft rate in each city. Williamsport, Penn., had the lowest rate, at just under 38 thefts reported per 100,000 population while the Bay Area experiences about 17 times that rate.

Methodology

To determine the safest cities for driving, we sought out recent data from reputable sources. We ended our search with 18 data points from nine sources to form five categories related to good driving conditions. Below, we breakdown each statistic and point to its origin. In parenthesis is the stat's relative weighting.

Quality of Roads

  1. Structurally Deficient/Functionally Obsolete Bridges (1) *
U.S. Department of Transportation (2013)

Fact: The FHA uses the National Bridge Inventory rating system and considers a bridge structurally deficient if it receives a poor rating (0-4). In Rhode Island, for example, 433 of 766 bridges in the state are categorized as structurally deficient.

2. Annual Total Extra Vehicle Repairs/Operating Costs Due to Driving on Roads in Need of Fixing (1)*
3. Percentage of Roads in Poor / Mediocre Condition (1)*
4. Mean number of days with precipitation .01 inch or more (1)National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2014)

Impaired Driving

5. Percentage of Adults Who Report Driving After Drinking Too Much (1)*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012)
6. Rate of death per 100,000 population (1)*

Passenger Safety

7. Fatal Crashes (.5)*Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (2014)

Fact: The average seatbelt usage in the nation was 87%. Still though, almost half of all fatal injuries are caused in crashes where restraints aren’t used. In Oregon, seatbelt laws require all passengers to be wearing restraints and carry a maximum fine of $130 for a first offense.

8. Deaths per 100,000 population (1.5)
9. Deaths per mile traveled (1.5)
10. Seatbelts usage percentage (.5)*

Ease of Commute

11. Average Commute Time (1.5)U.S. Census Bureau (2010)-2014
12. Commute by Car/Truck/Van percentage (.5)
13. Number of rush hours (time when system may be congested) (1)Texas A&M Transportation Institute (2014)
14. Annual excess fuel consumed (gallons per auto commuter) (1)
15. Annual congestion cost (dollar per commuter) (1)

Costs of Driving

16. Monthly Insurance Rates (1)*ValuePenguin Average Cost of Insurance (2016)
17. Gas Prices (1)AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report (April 25, 2016)
18. Rate of vehicle thefts reported per 100,000 people (1)National Insurance Crime Bureau (2014)
*This is state-level data.*

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