Personal Finance

2016 Safest Cities to Drive in the U.S.

2016 Safest Cities to Drive in the U.S.

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.

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

City
Quality of roads
Impaired driving
Passenger safety
Ease of commute
Costs of driving

1

Rochester, Minn.47471119

2

Duluth, Minn.724714121

3

Lynchburg, Va.1032546471

4

Springfield, Ill.8957242725

5

Binghamton, N.Y.1622163029

6

Roanoke, Va.1062546622

7

Peoria, Ill.9457245522

8

Medford, Ore.66214216108

9

Pocatello, Idaho6263841236

10

Flagstaff, Ariz.1976891367

11

Richmond, Va.8925461023

12

Sioux City, Iowa107826477
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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. cities, 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

Best cities

  • Las Vegas
  • Phoenix
  • Los Angeles
  • Santa Barbara, Calif.
  • Bakersfield, Calif.

Worst cities

  • Huntington, W.Va.
  • Syracuse, N.Y.
  • Buffalo, N.Y.
  • Olympia, Wash.
  • Erie, Penn.

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 0.01 inch or more. Cities with less precipitation (Las Vegas/first) scored better marks than cities with a lot of precipitation (Huntington, W.Va./last).

Commute time

Best cities

  • Grand Forks, N.D.
  • Cheyenne, Wyo.
  • Walla Walla, Wash.
  • Wichita Falls, Texas
  • Great Falls, Mont.

Worst cities

  • New York City
  • Chicago
  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Baltimore

For some people, precious extra minutes of sleep in the morning can mean the difference between 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 the average travel time it takes a commuter to get to the office. Workers in New York City spend almost three times as many minutes (35.2) getting to work than those in Grand Forks, N.D. (13.1)

Rate of theft

Best cities

  • Williamsport, Penn.
  • Binghamton, N.Y.
  • Erie, Penn.
  • La Crosse, Wis.
  • Portland, Maine

Worst cities

  • San Francisco
  • Bakersfield, Calif.
  • Stockton, Calif.
  • Spokane, Wash.
  • Seattle

For most people, a vehicle is essential to 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 break down 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 repair (1)*
3. Percentage of roads in poor or mediocre condition (1)*
4. Mean number of days with precipitation of 0.01 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 seat belt usage in the nation was 87%. Still, almost half of all fatal injuries are caused in crashes where restraints aren’t used. In Oregon, seat belt laws require all passengers to wear 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. Seat belt usage percentage (0.5)*