Join 3,556 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Always look both ways when running a red light
August 29, 2014 12:57 PM   Subscribe

This week Allstate Insurance released its 10th annual Best Drivers Report for the 200 largest US cities. It's wicked pissah being at the bottom (again).

The report "tabulates property damage collision frequency of Allstate insured drivers from 2011-2012". This year you can see the raw rankings in addition to new adjusted rankings controlling for population, density and weather.

In first place for the fourth time is Fort Collins, CO: "...the results indicate the average driver in Fort Collins will experience an auto collision every 14.2 years, which is 29.6 percent less likely than the national average of every 10 years"
posted by Esteemed Offendi (110 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
What's with DC ranking so poorly?

I get that we probably have our share of fender-benders, but driving in DC doesn't even remotely compare to the visceral terror of driving through NYC.
posted by schmod at 1:02 PM on August 29


At last, something Worcester is more-not-better-at than Boston
posted by bendybendy at 1:06 PM on August 29 [5 favorites]


I don't see how driving in NYC is scary. It's so slow. Confusing, sure, but on the whole everyone's going 10mph. The beltway on the other hand, is a crucible.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:06 PM on August 29 [3 favorites]


the visceral terror of driving through NYC.

When I moved to NYC, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to drive there compared to my times driving in Boston. I mentioned to a friend that it was a nice change to be in a place where drivers merely don't care whether you live or die; in Boston, they are actively trying to kill you.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:09 PM on August 29 [17 favorites]


My guess: seems to be largely a function of weather and population density ...

I would like to see the rankings after they control for weather and population density in a city.

Allstate has provided the data but will need to download and scrap from pdf.... ugh.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 1:10 PM on August 29


Jacksonville #55, not really surprising being right in the middle.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 1:11 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Driving in nyc (ex rush hour) is simple. Most people are lost or following a buggy GPS and will suddenly decide to make a left from the right hand lane only to discover that's a one way. Yellow cabs are exactly aggressive enough to be intimidating but not actually that interested in winning any given game of chicken. Black (and now green) cabs are the physical embodiment of premeditated manslaughter.
posted by Skorgu at 1:11 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


I love me my walkable dense Northeast cities, but man it must be easier to drive on streets designed by people and not cows.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:11 PM on August 29 [6 favorites]


Yes! Worst in our class! I've started commuting via car to work this year for the first time in a while and have almost been in an accident at least weekly during the last six months. Although to be fair, a lot of the blame is on Pittsburgh's wacky roads, road conditions and terrible weather.
posted by octothorpe at 1:13 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


I've been to Boston only once, and that single trip makes its rank at the bottom utterly believable. Good lord.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:16 PM on August 29


Interesting that only the top 50 cities (out of 200) are better than the national average.
posted by smackfu at 1:17 PM on August 29


What's with DC ranking so poorly?

Anecdotally, the DC area has the most deliberately aggressive drivers I've ever had the displeasure to encounter. Even LA drivers are more cooperative.
posted by jazzbaby at 1:19 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Oh, yeah. Boston is like a control group for bad drivers....
posted by schmod at 1:20 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


What's with DC ranking so poorly?

Out of town drivers unable to handle a completely reasonable grid-based system?
posted by troika at 1:20 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Shortly after I got my license, my dad decided that I should test my skills by driving from our home in Maine to his hometown of Boston.

We were in some rather hairy, moving-but-dense traffic on the Central Artery when a driver in a neighboring lane cut in ahead of me. There were inches to spare.

"What an asshole," I muttered.

Dad corrected me: "In Maine, he'd be an asshole because you left a safe distance ahead of you and he took advantage of that. Down here, anyone would have done what he did. Here, you're the asshole for leaving the space."
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:20 PM on August 29 [13 favorites]


Only lived here for two years, and I don't drive here. But as a pedestrian, I think Boston both has a fairly nasty driving culture and is really difficult to navigate - I imagine there are a fair number of accidents due to people not familiar with a particular area getting distracted by trying to find a god-damned street sign.
posted by dismas at 1:21 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


Strong Towns has interesting post on this subject.
posted by sonic meat machine at 1:21 PM on August 29 [5 favorites]


How can Fort Collins be 1 but Denver be 88? Ah, I know! It's because all of the Fort Collins drivers are busy having their wrecks commuting to work in Denver.

/only half sarcastic
posted by barchan at 1:22 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


The Philadelphia ranking is at least partly due to all the New Jersey drivers that come over for the day.
posted by carter at 1:22 PM on August 29 [3 favorites]


Having commuted in LA, NYC, and DC--I saw more accidents per mile driven in DC than anywhere else. I'd even put it up against Boston, having driven (but never commuted) there before.
posted by postel's law at 1:23 PM on August 29


The obvious reason for this is that Massachusetts drivers are way too liberal on the road; they need to become more conservative.
posted by Vibrissae at 1:23 PM on August 29


It's because all of the Fort Collins drivers are busy having their wrecks commuting to work in Denver.

It's a good point though. Is this based on the location of the accident, or the location of the insured?
posted by smackfu at 1:27 PM on August 29 [3 favorites]


Oh and I categorically refuse to drive in Boston. I'm convinced the road layout there was an embryonic attempt to summon a Great Old One.
posted by Skorgu at 1:33 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


What's with DC ranking so poorly?

Diplomatic plates.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:33 PM on August 29 [5 favorites]


Rochester, NY is #144 and I'm frankly surprised it's that high. This has to be the tailgating capital of NY and possibly the entire country. It's routine to see multi-car accidents caused by tailgating, sometimes multiple ones on the same stretch of highway. Or cars two feet apart going 15 mph over the speed limit.

You'd think we'd have run out of drivers who hadn't rear-ended someone while tailgating, but there seems to be an inexhaustible supply.
posted by tommasz at 1:34 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


We're #1! We're #1!

This, I'm convinced, is entirely due to Kelley "Square", a seven-way intersection with zero traffic lights.
posted by xbonesgt at 1:35 PM on August 29 [7 favorites]


The obvious reason for this is that Massachusetts drivers are way too liberal on the road; they need to become more conservative.

Every driver in Massachusetts is the purest form of Libertarian, completely self-interested and lacking any sort of altruistic impulse. I include myself in that statement-- it's a position that you're forced into if you want to actually reach your destination.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:35 PM on August 29 [4 favorites]


This has to be the tailgating capital of NY and possibly the entire country. It's routine to see multi-car accidents caused by tailgating, sometimes multiple ones on the same stretch of highway. Or cars two feet apart going 15 mph over the speed limit.

I believe most of coastal California is the world's champion in quantity rear-end pileups.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:38 PM on August 29


I expected Seattle to land a lot further down the list than 173.
posted by Pudhoho at 1:38 PM on August 29


Thanks for that Strong Towns link sonic meat machine! I should have thought to look there. The also excellent (but mostly Minnesota-focused) streets.mn had similar comments.

On preview: I just got back from a trip between Portland and Seattle and really expected them to be further down as well...so much passing on the right...
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 1:40 PM on August 29


Ha! About a year ago, I had a friend visiting from Seattle. She had never been to Boston before, so we were doing touristy things. At one point as I was driving us through a close-to-Boston suburb, rambling away and describing things, she gasped and looked shocked and was like "My god! I've never seen anyone do anything like that driver back at that last intersection!" And I'm sitting there thinking "....what? Did something unusual happen? What just happened that was so terrible?"

I still have no idea. I'm really glad we didn't come across anyone I would actually deem a terrible driver while we were out, I might never get her to visit again.
posted by instead of three wishes at 1:41 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


Is this based on the location of the accident, or the location of the insured?
That's what I'm wondering, too.

One of the things I also notice about this data set because of Fort Collins is that Fort Collins is a huge college town - according to Wikipedia, ~20% of the population is composed of college students. And you have the population that works in the college. So, really, maybe a huge portion of the population, while insured, may not drive that much due to proximity of the college. And of those that do drive, perhaps commute out of the area. So should the question be how likely are you to get into a collusion based on miles driven?

Which is an interesting question, because rural states tend to top deaths per mile stats - due to more miles from rural driving, more likely to have accidents at highway speeds, alcohol & sleepiness, and what my insurance agent once referred to as "the lethal combination of pick-up trucks on gravel roads" - but that's fatalities, not total accidents per mile driven. Which IS a different question that as far as I can tell this report doesn't answer because it's by cities and not miles.

I just skimmed it so I could have missed something, but... while this report looks pretty and is mildly informative, it is not as informative as it could be.
posted by barchan at 1:48 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


The first time I visited Boston, I was picked up at the airport by a coworker. After 20 minutes on the road, I said "Man, these drivers are all crazy here." My coworker said, "Yea, but you get used to it." Not 30 seconds later we were rear-ended.
posted by peeedro at 1:56 PM on August 29 [4 favorites]


Strong Towns has interesting post on this subject.

I read that earlier today when someone posted a link to their site in another thread, and I thought it made some very interesting points. For one thing, Massachusetts manages to have the fewest driving deaths per capita by a ton (4.79/100,000 to 6.19 for New York, the next lowest [Wyoming was highest at 27.48 to give a sense of the other end of the scale]). Obviously crashes where no one dies can still be bad, and basic logistics probably means that smaller, denser states will always have fewer road deaths than larger, more rural states, but the difference is pretty stark, and inasmuch as there's a tradeoff being made, I think you take the higher number of less-dangerous crashes over fewer but significantly more deadly crashes.
posted by Copronymus at 1:58 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Laredo is eighth safest, which can only be explained by the fact that everyone here knows that drivers are awful, so we are always on alert. Our high ranking is entirely due to constant vigilance and top-notch defensive driving skills, because not a day goes by that I don't see jaw-droppingly bad driving here.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:59 PM on August 29


Just read the Strong Towns link, and there's a point that they missed about rural, open areas- there's a question to be considered about rural states like Montana and Wyoming: are more miles driven there by residents, or out of state drivers? Because both states not have only two very important interstate arteries for trucking, but there's also millions of tourists (Yellowstone and the Tetons for WY, Glacier and the Rockies for MT) and in Montana's case in the last few years, a ton of people traveling to and from the oil fields in eastern Montana and North Dakota. The sheer number of drivers from out of state and the resulting needed maintenance on the interstate system - Wyoming has 3 interstates - is one of the reasons why they always head lists of states that "get" more federal money than they pay.

And man, the worst, fatal accidents I've heard about in Wyoming are almost always semi-truck drivers (wind, alcohol, sleepiness) and tourists, and tourists always tend to a) have numerous people in the car; b) don't know how to drive long, empty highways without getting sleepy; c) don't know how to drive mountain roads; d) are motorcyclists in Yellowstone or on their way to Sturgis; and e) don't understand what "open range" means to your van if you're driving 65 miles an hour at night with black cows. Or how much damage a moose or horse can do to a vehicle. And every summer it seems like one of those Rent-An-RVs full of Japanese tourists drives off a cliff on their way to Yellowstone and only a grandmother and baby survive or something awful like that. That can really affect your fatality stats.
posted by barchan at 2:24 PM on August 29 [4 favorites]


I drove in Boston and surrounds for a good few years. To all of my NYC friends who visited and commented, I said "just act like the people around you have never driven OR seen a car before. This will give you the appropriate level of caution."
posted by nevercalm at 2:28 PM on August 29 [3 favorites]


Need to remember that this is the BEST drivers list, and they're ranked according to the "relative likelihood of having an accident compared to the national average."

On that basis, only Worcester and Boston are "bad" cities to drive in, at 134.8% and 129.9% of the national average, respectively. Every other city on the list, including DC at 97.3%, is safer than the national average.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:31 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


I might add that low-ranked Seattle and Portland, just for example, are at 36.0% and 37.2% respectively, indicating that your likelihood of an accident there is little more than a third of the national average. Report here.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:37 PM on August 29


I am shocked, shocked I tell you, that there are more accidents in places with dense population and shitty winter weather. Soon, there will be posts on the typical color of the sky, and which religion the Pope subscribes to.

Which of these two intersections looks more likely to host an accident, regardless of driver skill? Both are picked arbitrarily, but are pretty representative.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 2:44 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


I went driving in Boston just one time.

I was driving down a highway when I saw a woman about to enter the highway onto the lane I was in - where I had no room to move left. I made eye contact with her - which always worked up until then - she definitely saw me...

And then she merged anyway - right into the lane I was in - and started honking her horn over and over again. For about an eighth of a mile, I had to drive between two lanes with cars within inches of me on both sides.

I got out, then immediately went to a gas station. "Tell me," I asked, "Who has the right of way when entering a highway around here?" - I was shaking! And I asked this because she was SO sure of herself that I was wondering if I was just ignorant of the local traffic laws.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:45 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


In Boston the one who has the right of way is the one bold enough to take it.
posted by oinopaponton at 2:46 PM on August 29 [13 favorites]


I've driven in Boston (okay, mostly Cambridge) and it took me all of three days, maybe, to internalize the aggressive belligerence towards all the tourists who don't understand that OF COURSE you have to be in the middle lane to turn left near Harvard square because this left lane goes straight and dips into the underpass, IDIOT. Also, that bit where you turn on your indicator to tell the drivers around you, "See what I did there, suckers?". Not even NYC comes close to that level of awful driving.

In Boston the one who has the right of way is the one bold enough to take it.

Yes, exactly.
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:49 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


See, this is exactly the kind of story that points out how infrastructure affects driving. In much of the country, there are long merge lanes, and shoulders beyond that. The person entering has plenty of room to find an appropriate spot.

In much of the Boston area, there is a short merge lane with a concrete barrier or offramp at the end. You can't stop and wait for an opening, because there's enough traffic that you will literally never get one from 0 mph--you must be up to speed. The person on the highway may have the right of way legally, but they're acting like an ass if they don't slow down to let somebody merge, which is probably why you got honked at.

For a long time, getting to Logan from 93S required you to cut across two or three lanes of traffic within a ridiculously short distance. I think it's been fixed now, but the point remains. It falls in Woburn, but the 93-128 interchange is also instructive of the general infrastructure: two major highways have about 100ft for cars from 93 to merge onto 128 and cars from 128 to exit to 93...simultaneously in the same lane. Shockingly, there are lots of crashes here.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 3:00 PM on August 29 [14 favorites]


#174 sounds about right for Dallas. I guess it's a good thing I don't drive and my bike got stolen last night so I don't have to deal with any of this shit.
posted by item at 3:16 PM on August 29


I am totally not shocked that Providence is 196. I was driving with a friend this afternoon, and we were discussing the way that RIslanders just kind of make up" traffic "customs" because they don't seem to know the actual laws. It's bewildering, and knowing what is actually legal might be a fatal disadvantage.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:24 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


Need to remember that this is the BEST drivers list, and they're ranked according to the "relative likelihood of having an accident compared to the national average."

Hmmm, my interpretation is that 0% is the same as the national average.
posted by smackfu at 3:29 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


(Otherwise I don't know what -29.6% for Fort Collins would mean.)
posted by smackfu at 3:30 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


> What's with DC ranking so poorly?

A steady stream of new transplants to the area, plus a stubborn denial to deal with the fact that DC does indeed get snow. AKA... Diplomats On Ice.
posted by Westringia F. at 3:35 PM on August 29 [3 favorites]


I used to drive in Boston many years ago, and I always recalled it as being intense but not horrible.

So I wonder if in the intervening decades the locals have collectively decided to embrace what used to be an exaggeration and make it real.
posted by ardgedee at 3:40 PM on August 29


As for the rankings, I'm only surprised that anywhere in California gets in the top 20. Nobody can fucking merge on a highway there. Which is surreal since highways are the only available form of transportation.
posted by ardgedee at 3:42 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


I know this is US-only, but can I point out that the worst US city is a fucking kindergarten playground compared to most Latin American cities? As in 'he-who-honks-first-or-maybe-loudest-passes-first' intersections in the middle of downtown La Paz, for example?
posted by signal at 3:53 PM on August 29 [3 favorites]


For Senior Week in high school, a friend and I went on a road trip from Maryland up to New England and back. The only advice my dad gave me was:

"In NYC, other drivers do not care about you.
In Boston, other drivers are actively trying to kill you."

I moved to Boston the next year. COME AT ME BRO
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:58 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Probably 95% of all the city driving I have ever done in my life has been done in 4 of the 5 bottom-ranked cities on this list (I don't think I've ever driven in DC). This maybe explains why I am always completely shocked and flabbergasted when I am driving in someplace like Scottsdale or Phoenix (#45 and #79, respectively) and all these other drivers do really weird, unpredictable things, like slow down when stoplights turn yellow or let other people merge in front of them.

On the plus side, years of driving in Boston and Providence have taken that part of my brain that should be where "fear of death" goes and completely replaced it with "berserk hatred of the sound a car horn makes".

Worcester, though - Worcester completely deserves to be at the bottom. I don't sweat Boston rush hour traffic, I don't even bat an eye at downtown Providence rush hour on a Waterfire night, but man, fuck Worcester. It's not even that the drivers are so much worse than Boston or Providence, it's that Worcester is always undergoing massive road construction. It's basically what you'd get if you took a big chunk of Boston and just covered random lanes and streets with orange barrels, scattered some "Detour" signs around at random pointing in random directions, and then moved it all anytime people started to learn where they were. In other words, it's a permanent state of urban warfare that would make Mad Max cry.
posted by mstokes650 at 4:07 PM on August 29 [4 favorites]


You're right, smackfu. I read it carelessly. Pity they didn't put a plus sign in front of the positive percentages, which might have tipped me off.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:12 PM on August 29


Seeing how badly ranked most of the Texas cities are (160-190th in a warm weather region), it's pretty clear to me that the state needs stricter drivers license requirements. Apparently the points system and fines aren't doing enough.
posted by crapmatic at 4:13 PM on August 29


If my Boston friends are any guide they think they are wonderful drivers. Which makes it all the worse.
posted by shothotbot at 4:14 PM on August 29


Slate has a decomposition from last year of Allstate's metrics. They're not real impressed with it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:16 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


The roads are narrow. They are un- or poorly marked. Apparently we only have five street names and they get recycled every time you cross a town border. Major intersections rarely involve right angles. There are parked cars everywhere. There are pedestrians everywhere. It's mostly resolved now, but we had a 10+ year construction project that stretched from one end of the city to the other. The weather is very often lousy. Every third street is one-way. Roads that start out parallel to reach other sometimes diverge and sometime intersect.

The drivers of Boston are not trying to kill you. They are aggressive. They know where they are going and they have no pity if you do not. They could get there faster if you would fucking move out of the way. And if you do, then all is well.

If they would use their gorram turn signals I could forgive them entirely. Fucking idiots.
posted by maryr at 4:29 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


Ft. Collins is #1 because it is impossible to go over 30 mph anywhere within the speed limits. Hard to get into an accident when nobody is moving.
posted by mmb5 at 4:40 PM on August 29


More fun in Boston driving: This time of year, as nearly 80% of the city's rentals turnover, including many many students, locals like to predict what time on September 1st the first UHaul will get Storrowed - stuck under a extremely low overpass on Storrow Drive, the city's busiest east/west thoroughfare, backing up traffic and causing thousands of dollars of property damage.

It's actually quite remarkable the overpass holds up as well as it does, considering how often it gets hit. (Bonus vocab: Allston Christmas is September 1st when residents of a particularly undergraduate rich neighborhood leave all the stuff they couldn't fit into their eventually mangled Uhauls on the sidewalk. It's a good time to get a free TV or printer. It's a bad time to get a free couch unless you want bed bugs and mystery stains.)
posted by maryr at 4:46 PM on August 29 [4 favorites]


Diplomats On Ice

How often do they present this show? Sounds exciting!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:49 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


63135 and 63136 are going to take some hits the next time policies are written.
posted by buzzman at 4:56 PM on August 29


Growing up in Northern New England, such that whenever I had to go into a large city it was Boston, thankfully inured me to dealing with shitty driving. The only behavior that has ever caught me by surprise was in Houston with its infinite-number-of-lane highways: most of the people are pretty reasonable but there's this certain point where traffic density in continuous flow gets just low enough that the breadth and scale of the roads permit some assholes to treat it as a sort of maze to move through at two to three times the speed everyone else is proceeding at, driving diagonally to the lanes.

Or at least that's the way it was circa ten years ago or so; the electronic monitoring and signage-feedback systems they had back then were already relatively sophisticated and could successfully prevent or attenuate many of the common problems I'd encounter elsewhere in North America, so they may have found some way to prevent it.
posted by XMLicious at 5:03 PM on August 29


I get that we probably have our share of fender-benders, but driving in DC doesn't even remotely compare to the visceral terror of driving through NYC.

Respectfully completely disagree.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:10 PM on August 29


Oh, and DC's unbelievably bad drivers/traffic is a result of:

1. Extremely transient culture, so different styles of driving from a bunch of people unfamiliar with the city in general.
2. Unpredictable whether that the transient population is wholly unprepared to deal with.
3. Lotta lotta lotta drunk drivin'.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:14 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


That article caused the math part of my brain to spin around in circles for a few minutes: What’s kind of interesting — if you look at the details they gave us on the study, the likelihood of getting into a crash if you live in Boston, compared to the national average, is 129 percent.

So that could either mean it's 29% higher than average, or 129% higher than average. Wait, why did he say "likelihood"? 1.29 is not a number between 0 and 1, so he's not talking about a probability. Maybe he meant "odds"? No, 1.29 to 1 doesn't make any sense either.

I wish he had just said "If you live in Boston you are more than twice as likely to be in an accident, compared to the national average."
posted by A dead Quaker at 5:28 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


I mean, saying the likelihood is 129% makes as much sense as a sports player giving 110%.
posted by A dead Quaker at 5:33 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Yes there is too much passing on the right in the northwest, not least because everyone believes they belong in the left lanes, so the right lane on the freeway is the most freely flowing.
posted by wotsac at 5:34 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Lol. I learned to drive in Boston and have driven all over the country since. I now drive in NYC several times a week and in Boston 6-9 days a month.

So I speak with authoritah: Boston is an order of magnitude more fucked up to drive in, despite (as well as because of) the way it still requires driving to get around for certain common values of getting around. And there is no asshole like a Masshole (native son, sue me).

I'd rather drive at rush hour in NYC than Boston any day. And parking is not even comparable in relative difficulty.

Of course it is exhilarating if you're the sporting sort behind the wheel and enjoy the thrill of the battle.
posted by spitbull at 6:19 PM on August 29


I'm sure it's been shared before, but this image really does sum up some of the important differences about why driving in Boston is worse than NYC.
posted by TwoStride at 6:24 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


I'll tell ya what, when you put delays like these on top of commute times like these, a lot of your fellow drivers in and from DC/Maryland/Virginia are NOT GONNA BE IN GOOD MOODS. (via.)

And that's not to mention the nearly-incomprehensible-to-non-locals NE/SE/SW/NW addresses, arbitrarily-state-named diagonal avenues and perplexing traffic circles... plus the rampantly-disobeyed street parking rules, the plague of "box-blockers," the motorcades, the permanent potholes, the notoriously unreliable public transportation.... Ahem. The National Mall and all the free museums are very nice, and the building-height restriction is wonderful, the cherry blossoms are really pretty, the Ethiopian food deserves its reputation, and the weather isn't THAT bad. Come visit! Just wear comfortable shoes!
posted by argonauta at 7:57 PM on August 29


The thing about Boston, though, is that the bad driving is predictable. That car across the intersection from you at the red light? They're going to turn left in front of you as soon as the light goes green. Just wait for them. The cab in the lane next to you on Mem Drive is totally going to cut you off to exit by MIT. The 90/95 interchange is going to be a bitch so get out of the way if you're on 95 and traffic is merging on from the Pike. Everyone is speeding. It's a common chaos from driver to driver and it makes for a predictable system for those familiar with it.

But yeah, as a newbie or tourist it's hell.

Currently a resident of Australia, full of speed cameras and law abiding citizens, desperately missing Massachusetts's blatant disregard for speed limits
posted by olinerd at 8:04 PM on August 29 [5 favorites]


Earlier this year, my boyfriend and I took a trip to Charleston. On our way into town from the airport, we were talking about DC drivers with the lady driving the shuttle van, who had lived in DC for a while. I made a comment about how drivers on the Beltway seem to regard the use of turn signals as an arcane and forbidden art.

About thirty seconds later, a car in the next lane tried to merge into our lane without signaling, and side-swiped our van.

Not sure what that proves, but presumably something.
posted by nonasuch at 8:19 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


I have been trying to reach my kids how to safely cross the street by letting oncoming cars pass before they venture into the crosswalk, but it's not working because ALL THE CARS KEEP STOPPING TO WAVE US ACROSS.

Curse you, polite small town Midwestern drivers concerned with pedestrian safety!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:32 PM on August 29 [4 favorites]


I have lived and driven in San Francisco, Chicago, DC, Charlottesville, and NYC area. I cannot tell you how glad I am that I grew up and learned to drive in the NY suburbs and in NYC. I learned at 17 to be so defensive while simultaneously being aggressive that I can drive anywhere with confidence. My father used such sayings as, "There is a reason god gave you a horn son. Use it." and "Command your lane" (still not 100% sure what that meant). I have never had an accident and commuted daily for 10 years from Westchester to downtown via car. Same with Chicago only it was the north shore to LaSalle and Van Buren. 101 in SF? Meh.

There are several things I always do. I use my turn signals, I use my horn, I watch the front wheels of cars on my side and coming at me, and I assume that every other driver will attempt to violate the laws of physics. If you consider your equipment, the road condition, the weather, the traffic and the road signs, you should do ok wherever.
posted by 724A at 8:34 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


No that's the worst eyebrowd, at least of they're not supposed.to.stop. better to be predictable than polite!
posted by Carillon at 9:20 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


I live in the North Shore of Boston, and hate it because of how people drive here. I commute into NH for work and easily avoid four accidents before even getting on the freeway in the morning.

I've driven in SF and Seattle and neither of those areas has anything on the sheer cluelessness and selfish behavior exhibited by Boston Metro drivers.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 10:14 PM on August 29


better to be predictable than polite!

Seconded. Excessively courteous drivers drive me nucking futs... they're rare but bizarre and dangerous to you. I have sat at a stop sign and had to repeatedly wave the other car through because for some reason he or she stopped to let me go. Why? All that happens is you get into a futile gesture conversation for a while and the next thing you know you both give up and go at the same time and slam into each other. And of course, I'd be the one who got cited if that happened. I have sat on my motorcycle on a two way road with my left turn signal on, only to have a car coming the other way stop to let me turn. I never do it; I wait as long as I have to for them to do what they should have silently done by default in the first place, which is just keep going, dammit.

If you have the right of way, take it. It's the way it's supposed to work -- you don't sit down and negotiate new rules as you go.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:26 PM on August 29 [6 favorites]


Weird. Fort Collins is also at the top of "happiest cities" lists. I guess all the people like me who weren't happy have gone, and nothing ever happens to distract you from your driving.

Although, snow. And fraternities. I don't know. Makes no kind of sense.
posted by univac at 11:23 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


I had a huge sprawling comment on Denver but I'll try to be more succinct:

Fort Collins and Colorado Springs are big but distant enough to be "enclave like" where your typical citizen is happy to be where they are and chose to be there to be around specific jobs (many niche ones, and there's the Air Force Academy in CS).

Typical Coloradans in a 100K+ city hate 45-60+ minute commutes in my experience. I structure where I live largely to maintain a 30 minute commute or less, for the past 15 years.

In the proper Denver area there are a bazillion jobs within 45 minutes, and Boulder is close enough, etc. Colorado Springs seems to crack down quite a bit on speeding and has big-ass streets. Denver Proper has frenetic driving sometimes. I'm rather aggressive myself and don't usually notice, because there's a large enough combination of average drivers, bobos who sit in the passing lane going 10 under, and people who can't stand those bobos and take it out on too many other people, so such that I try to be the person who can't stand the bobos but isn't a total dick in the process of getting away from them and everyone else.

I took a lot of trips to SoCal this year and thought the driving would be more challenging, but other than learning to not signal too early (aggressive blocking) it was not any more difficult. Then I remembered how I grew up here for 13 years, spend a year somewhere else, came back, and my dad totally freaked out remember how everyone drove on the freeway vs. a smaller 50K city in the midwest.

My wife doesn't drive as aggressively as I do yet she's always been a "signal and change lanes too quickly" kind of person. I realize it's because she does actually get blocked constantly because she's not the sort of person who looks for ways to optimize her drive time, if you will, whereas I'm used to just darting ahead sufficiently enough (without commuting in terrible traffic) to never have a problem performing a 2-5-second signal before changing lanes.
posted by aydeejones at 11:43 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


Oakland is safer (183) than San Francisco (190) according to this study, but I swear I've seen more dead cold red lights run in the one year I've lived here in the 510 than I've seen in the rest of my 39 years living in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and California in general.

I'm talking regular basis, at least once a week I see someone cruising through a red light in West Oakland without slowing down. Not even trying to rush a yellow, but a light that's been sitting there red for fifteen seconds. Just, whoosh, as if the light wasn't even there. Lately I've taken to calling out "Oakland!" every time I drive through an intersection on a stale yellow.

Similarly, I've personally had and witnessed more pedestrian close-calls while driving. People darting out in front of traffic, people strolling across the street with headphones on and texting, narrowly avoiding being smooshed by a car or truck.

I bike a lot in Oakland and San Francisco, and have seen plenty of bonehead behavior from all types of traffic, but this fair city takes the cake. The worst I've seen, by far.

I love Oakland, just to make my position on this perfectly clear.
posted by scelerat at 2:19 AM on August 30 [1 favorite]


My worst motorcycle accident was in Oakland. City, if you're going to let them build a big, opaque building right on the sidewalk at a corner of two streets, for Christ's sake put STOP signs on at least one of those streets.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:04 AM on August 30


I am a proud Boston driver for the past 35 years. ( one year I am not so proud of) The learned behavior of Boston drivers is so predictable that it has on more than one occassion saved my life (or limited severe injury).
1. A turn signal (Blinkah) is entirely optional and when used it is a sign of weakness.
2. Turn signals are often used as a feint. Driving with a turn signal on for several miles gives you road dominance as no one is quite sure when or if you will turn. Crossing traffic will slow down because a right turn signal often means you will be turning left.
3. Green means GO! regardless of oncoming traffic. Showing a turn signal at a red light while waiting to turn is a sign of weakness and gives opposing traffic the clues it needs to rush the green so as to cut you off from turning.
4. That yellow is MINE! I need it to make that left across traffic. You should know that, and respect it. However since no one does I will move into the middle of the intersection and make my turn on the red.
5. At a rotary I have the right of way regardless of your position in the rotary because, well, dammit I am in a rotary.
6. Blocking the box is a fully acceptable practice and is endorsed by the BPD.
7. Bikes? what bikes?
8. Merging is for suckers.
9. No left turn does not mean no banging a U-ie.
10. Stay out of my right lane! That is reserved for everyone making a right turn regardless of the presence or absence of a No Turn ON Red sign.
11. Horns are for signalling aggression not warning pedestrians.
posted by Gungho at 5:34 AM on August 30 [7 favorites]


the visceral terror of driving through NYC.

I found driving in NYC easy, though parking was a royal pain and clearly people had learned to associate honking with sexual pleasure. DC was also super easy, and easier parking at least where I was. Boston was ok except that people were driving way too fast for the roads, which is funny because everything is so close that it's not like you are actually saving any time. Lower those speeds and you will solve the accident rate (and probably increase average speeds because of the clogs caused by the wrecks).

I've driven in a few very large Latin American cities and those are fine as long as you get into the zen of it and just roll with the flow. The traffic jams can be epic though, to the point that keeping a pee bottle in the car is probably smart.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:06 AM on August 30


As an Arizonan I'm spoiled. Phoenix is a city where almost everyone uses freeways to commute, and with the exception of I-17, every freeway has good visibility, wide lanes, big shoulders, good surfacing, etc. Our traffic is extremely predictable and our weather is almost always sunny. The only downside is the number of drunk drivers late at night.

Since I haven't been to Boston I'll throw in a vote for Seattle as most maddening place I've ever driven, far more frustrating than LA or the Bay. Does living up in the Northwest turn everyone into grandma drivers? With a 55 or 65 speed limit, Joe Blow will happily camp out in the fast lane driving 50 and will motor along blissfully unaware. This is bad in Seattle and Portland and even worse along I-5 through Washington.

I know Californians and Arizonans have a rotten reputation in the Northwest, but hey- we're used to actually driving a reasonable speed. With a 65 speed limit, in Phoenix the fast lanes go 75-80 and in LA they go 80-85, and as long as you're not driving like an ass by weaving around or cutting people off or obviously being the fastest guy on the road, you're cool.

Is it a hippie thing to drive slow in the Northwest or something?
posted by Old Man McKay at 6:12 AM on August 30


159! Woo! I used to consider Houston the benchmark for horrible driving (having never visited Boston until recently) and now Austin is one worse than Houston Go us!

Always look both ways when running a red light

In Austin, if you're turning right, you only need to look left when running a red light. It's badnews-ville for cyclists who still feel that they should ride against traffic. and pedestrians. And people pulling out of driveways. Sorry, losers! Rules is rules.

The other great Austin trick is if theres a left turn lane up a ways & you want in it, it's perfectly acceptable to pull into the oncoming lane to get to it if it looks like there might not be any oncoming traffic. My favorite accident of all time was when one guy 15 cars behind me at a red light did this, then a guy 10 cars in front of him did this, right as he got to him. They were both illegally driving northbound in the southbound lane, trying to save themselves 30 seconds. Poetic justice for 2 assholes.

Also, any invasion of another car's right-of-way is utterly acceptable if there's a reasonable chance that they will have enough time to panic-brake & allow your incursion. (Depending on the relative age & value of your vehicles, of course. A Toyota cannot do this to a Mercedes, and it's harder to judge when it's a Lexus SUV vs. a Land Rover)

Cyclists, of course, have the right to fully occupy a lane, so this means if you're all duded up in yellow stretchies covered with sponsor logos like Lance Armstrong and those badass Oakley shades, you can fully occupy the car lane that's parallel to the bike lane to your right.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:39 AM on August 30


That car across the intersection from you at the red light? They're going to turn left in front of you as soon as the light goes green. Just wait for them.

What I've always found surprising about this maneuver is not the turn itself but that opposing traffic will calmly wait for the illegal left turn.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:16 AM on August 30 [2 favorites]


All these comments about driving in Boston. I drove in Boston when I was there a couple of months for work, and… didn’t notice anything unusual at all.

Not sure what that says about me or where I live and usually drive (south London, UK)

But visiting my daughter in Albania this summer… hoo boy. I have never actually been forced off the road by an oncoming car before. Either that or suffer a head-on collision.

And I wouldn’t drive where I am now either (Mumbai)
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 7:54 AM on August 30


I'm a New England transplant who's still horrified by the terrible driving I see on a daily basis in the greater Boston area. I was at a Meetup recently with a woman born and raised in Worcester. She confessed that she was over 40 before it dawned on her that maybe when she's traveling in the right lane on the highway she should let cars merge.

I also drive by an off-ramp every day that yields into a fairly busy street--into the lane that I'm driving in, actually. And every single day, 90% of the off-ramp drivers do not even touch their breaks even though they have the yield sign.

Boston drivers think that yield signs are for pansies. (This explains the rotary problem, too).
posted by TwoStride at 7:56 AM on August 30


But visiting my daughter in Albania this summer… hoo boy. I have never actually been forced off the road by an oncoming car before. Either that or suffer a head-on collision.

I was forced off the road onto the shoulder (which luckily was wide and flat) two weeks ago in Oregon by someone passing where they shouldn't. One place I used to work, every day I would pass a sign that said "Undertakers love overtakers," and there is truth to that.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:16 AM on August 30


Boston: better than Albania, asshole.
posted by spitbull at 9:04 AM on August 30


Metafilter: better than Albania, asshole.
posted by univac at 9:19 AM on August 30


I moved several years ago to Rhode island from the Midwest. I think of driving in providence (#196) as being in a sea of marbles randomly pinging about, and I think of Boston as a bumper car arena. RI is random but not malicious, Boston is aggressive but predictable. Both are terrifying in their own right.
posted by geegollygosh at 9:43 AM on August 30


Re: Boston. I grew up on Long Island so I'm used to bad drivers. But what annoyed me to no end in the pre-GPS era was Boston's (and most of Massachusetts for that matter) stubborn unwillingness to label roads and cross streets. As good as Mapquest was, those printed paper maps sitting on your lap couldn't tell you what road you were on. Nothing like driving miles in the wrong direction on the wrong road until you found a sign.
posted by tommasz at 10:07 AM on August 30 [3 favorites]


Yeah I don't know how directly coupled it is to Boston style but when I was living in New Bedford I quickly realized people will just cut you right the fuck off and not even mean to hurt your feelings. Once you start anticipating it it's actually kind of liberating, and the flipside is you can just pull into like 30 cars going 80mph because fuck them and they won't even care because they knew you were going to do some crazy shit like that. And they're like yeah you cut the shit off of us didn't you, come be part of my family in my weird house.
posted by passerby at 12:28 PM on August 30 [4 favorites]


Oh, and DC's unbelievably bad drivers/traffic is a result of:
1. Extremely transient culture, so different styles of driving from a bunch of people unfamiliar with the city in general.
2. Unpredictable whether that the transient population is wholly unprepared to deal with.
3. Lotta lotta lotta drunk drivin'.

I totally disagree (but I've been gone 13 years- it might have changed- and here I'm talking about DC, not the beltway, which is in a part of the country with voting representation)
I think it's mostly people who are familiar with the city. There are a lot of 'important' people, and they don't always feel the rules are for them. There is also not enough space for all the cars that come into the city, and there are lots of people who insist on crossing streets. This results in a need to drive aggressively just to get anywhere. When I first came to the city, I thought other drivers were trying to kill me, but after a while, I learned the rules, and didn't take it personally. (It took a few years to retrain myself after I got to Vermont.) And diplomatic plates do give a certain invulnerability, but I think that only a small percentage of foreign drivers behave badly, or at least no worse than anyone else. It seems to usually be the teenaged son of a diplomat, rather than the diplomats themselves.
I had a visceral terror of NYC until after I was used to driving in DC. Then I thought of it as DC with worse potholes. I have not driven much in Boston, but it was always at the top of my list of worst cities to drive in, though most of my experience has been in the Northeast.
And I was not aware of an unusual amount of drunk driving, although there was that 'night-owl' mayor...
posted by MtDewd at 2:30 PM on August 30


The drivers of Boston are not trying to kill you. They are aggressive. They know where they are going and they have no pity if you do not. They could get there faster if you would fucking move out of the way. And if you do, then all is well.

We went to Boston on family vacations a few times when I was a kid. I distinctly remember sitting in the backseat of our shitty little Plymouth Reliant, stopped behind a few other cars at a red light, when all the sudden, a driver behind us started slamming on his horn and freaking the fuck out.

While we continued to wait for the light, the guy decided to whip his car to the right, speed down the sidewalk to the end of the street (narrowly missing a bunch of poles and storefronts and a mailbox) and blast through the intersection with the light still not in his favor.

I'm terrified of driving in Manhattan, but Boston takes shit to a whole new level.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 3:02 PM on August 30


I figure this is a good thread to drop this little nugget of driving advice.

I do this all the time. Cars get pissed at me, semi trucks will honk and swerve to pass me by. You know what? Fuck em, the selfish bastards. We need a goddamn movement to encourage the use of wave eating, of extra space, because it's actually more efficient; higher number of cars per minute throughput, less wear on automobiles, more efficient use of gasoline.

A recommended soundtrack for this sort of activity. Especially pleasant to be blasting out in a Chevelle doing 20 during rush hour, with a fuckin mile of space in front, and a brake to be touched never.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 3:14 PM on August 30 [2 favorites]


While we continued to wait for the light, the guy decided to whip his car to the right, speed down the sidewalk to the end of the street (narrowly missing a bunch of poles and storefronts and a mailbox) and blast through the intersection with the light still not in his favor.

Hah, I've seen that happen exactly once in life and it was in Boston (or maybe Cambridge). It was like watching an improbable scene in a car chase in a movie.
posted by octothorpe at 4:07 PM on August 30 [1 favorite]


One of Tom Menino's lasting legacies was that he made the DPW put signs at pretty much every intersection in Boston. Cross over the Neponset into Quincy, though, and you damn well better have a GPS because you can go miles on Hancock Street without seeing a sign letting you know you're on Hancock Street.
posted by adamg at 4:53 PM on August 30


While we continued to wait for the light, the guy decided to whip his car to the right, speed down the sidewalk to the end of the street (narrowly missing a bunch of poles and storefronts and a mailbox) and blast through the intersection with the light still not in his favor.

For what it's worth, that guy was fucking crazy. I have never seen that happen and I've lived here 10 years.
posted by maryr at 5:03 PM on August 30


Probably Matt Damon having another Bourne flashback.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:21 PM on August 30


Maybe evidenceofabsence and I were sitting at the same light in Boston. It was probably around 1976 for me.
posted by octothorpe at 6:49 PM on August 30


I was kind of hoping it would be the same light, but no dice. Mine was sometime around 1990.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:43 PM on August 30


Q for drivers in Boston (and other, uh, exciting cities): What do you do if you have a particularly valuable or rare car? How do you protect it?
posted by Monochrome at 8:57 PM on August 30


I learned to drive in a top 5 city so forgive my naivete.
posted by Monochrome at 9:04 PM on August 30


How do you protect it?

I've never been in that situation myself, but my understanding is that people who can afford such things park them in a garage in the suburbs, then drive an old beater in the city. There have been articles recommending the best shitboxes for driving in Boston.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:39 AM on August 31 [1 favorite]


I've been to boston once. I still don't understand the necessity of popping a 900 degree extended turn to get to a location on the other side of a highway.
China's the most interesting drive for me. They turn three lanes into four and everyone just rolls with it. Also, no real need to slow down when doing a right turn; just honk and assume people heard you. It's sort of like what you're supposed to do on the blind turns on single-lane mountain roads in California, but I never hear anyone else do it.
posted by halifix at 2:33 AM on August 31


I grew up in the DC area and now live in LA County. Yes, in DC people don't use turn signals. I am also glad to see I am not crazy when I say that some LA drivers deliberately prevent you from changing lanes when you put on your signal, worse they usually end up moving into the lane you are leaving. I actually almost got in a huge accident when this guy decided he needed to overtake me and not let me into the carpool lane as I was changing lanes.
posted by amapolaroja at 6:48 PM on August 31


« Older The Nishiyama Silk company explains their silk pro...  |  St. Paul police roughly assaul... Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.