With the Fourth of July on the horizon, America's roads are busier than ever. Using 2 million driver data points, QuoteWizard determined which of America's 75 most populous metro city areas have the best and worst drivers.
If you've ever gone on a road trip, you may have noticed that driving styles and quality vary from city to city. New Yorkers are notorious for horn honking and tailgating. Miami drivers are renowned for ignoring the turn signal. Los Angeles drivers are more prone to road rage than the rest of the country. And Portlanders are famously slow and polite behind the wheel.
After QuoteWizard compared the best and worst drivers by state, we wanted to know more about how drivers in America's 75 most populous city metro areas stack up against each other. Here's how we did it:
How do you statistically determine bad driving? We sampled incident stats from users of our website with over two million data points from 2016. To quantify over driver standards for comparison, we weighted incident counts for each city with its occurrence percentage. The final rankings are sum of weighted means calculated from these parameters:
- Speeding tickets
- Citations (running a red light, using a cellphone while driving, etc.)
Using this data, QuoteWizard ranked each US city from worst to best.
This list contains the 75 most populous city metro areas in the US. They're ranked from worst is first, so the lower a city is on this list, the better the drivers are. Conversely, cities with higher rankings have progressively worse drivers. In other words, being high on this list is not a good a thing.
Read more below the list for a more in-depth look on how these cities stack up against each other.
|2||Salt Lake City, UT|
|5||San Diego, CA|
|6||Los Angeles, CA|
|12||Virginia Beach, VA|
|13||Bay Area, CA|
|29||New Orleans, LA|
|31||Kansas City, MO|
|34||St. Louis, MO|
|36||New York, NY|
|39||Colorado Springs, CO|
|42||Oklahoma City, OK|
|48||San Antonio, TX|
|62||Grand Rapids, MI|
|64||El Paso, TX|
|68||Las Vegas, NV|
|69||Baton Rouge, LA|
|71||Little Rock, AR|
Detroit, Michigan is home to many distinctions, including having the most expensive car insurance rates in the country. Add the high number of uninsured and oft-unlicensed drivers, and things look start looking bleak for Detroit's roadways. But surprisingly, our study firmly places Detroit in the top spot as America's best driving city. Detroit has the lowest accident rate and second lowest amount of speeding citations according to our data. Congratulations, people of Detroit. Despite a topsy-turvy economy and rapidly transforming city scape, your citizens are great drivers. Of course, you may need to take out a second mortgage to afford car insurance, but that’s a whole other story.
America's second best drivers hail from the capital of the biggest little state in the union: Providence, Rhode Island. Providence drivers benefit from shockingly short driving distances – residents consider any drive longer than 20 minutes to be a road trip. At 37 miles wide and 48 miles long, Rhode Island is delightfully short and skinny. Providence drivers may suffer from perennial potholes and one of the (alleged) least-sexy accents in America. But no one can take away Providence's silver medal as the second-best drivers in America. With the lowest speeding ticket and traffic citation numbers in our list, Providence has earned their title.
Despite droves of theme-park addicted tourists, the numbers show that people in Orlando, Florida know how to drive. Perhaps the notorious 'Florida Man' avoids Orlando's roadways, because they're QuoteWizard's third best driving city. Surprised? So are we. Florida's drivers get their share of bad press, and Orlando faces some of America's worst traffic. And like Detroit, Florida suffers from large amounts of uninsured drivers. Regardless, Orlando's drivers are statistically excellent -- their accident rate was second behind only Detroit. Way to go, Orlando.
Sacramento is the capital of California. They're also the capital of bad drivers. That's right, Sacramento: you've earned the dubious honor of being America's worst driving city. Sacramento finds itself in first due to the highest rate of traffic citations in the country. They're also close to the top for accidents and DUI's, at fourth. Yes, America's largest tree canopy lines Sacramento's streets, but the streets themselves are filled with dangerous drivers. Perhaps Sacramentans should consider commuting by boat on Sacramento's numerous waterways, ala Venice. Fortunately, Sacramento's sorry drivers can always take solace in the fact that they're not from SoCal.
Salt Lake City
Our data shows that Utah's most populated city is also home to America's second worst drivers. SLC's high ranking on our list is due primarily to lead feet – they have the second highest speeding ticket rates of 75 cities. Salt Lake City's drivers are also racking up traffic citations at the fifth highest clip in the nation. As if Utah's peculiar alcohol regulations weren't bad enough, the people of Salt Lake City now have to live with the knowledge that they're some of America's worst drivers. Don't fret, SLC: take solace in your beautiful landscape, copious shaved ice selection, and Utah's strong economy.
Tucked near Los Angeles and between mountains and desert is Riverside. As the flag-bearer for California's Inland Empire, Riverside is also a pioneer when it comes to bad driving. Perhaps the thick smog makes it difficult for Riverside drivers to keep their eyes on the road, because they're the third worst driving city on our list. Specifically, Riverside drivers have a penchant for drinking and driving with the third highest DUI rate on our list. It's not all doom and gloom, Riverside. Chances are that no city will ever have a larger paper cup. And perhaps Riverside's once-booming citrus industry will return to prominence.
City vs City Rivalries
New York vs Boston
The infamous Curse of the Bambino is just one chapter in the historical rivalry between Boston and New York. Although the Giants vs Patriots and Knicks vs Celtics rivalries are also storied, there's more than just sports that has Bostonians and New Yorkers at odds with each other.
Boston's puritanical founding was directly at odds with New York's early designation as a home to heretics. These divides deepened during the Anglo-Dutch wars, and further coalesced due to opposing opinions on the Revolutionary War. New York and Boston's rocky relationship continued through land grabs and competition for trade routes.
Today, those animosities burn brightest in sports. Boston has plenty of beef with New York, though New Yorkers will always claim supremacy when it comes to who is the superior city. New York's elitism can extend to driving. New York, at 36th worst, scores better than Boston at 19th worst. Boston's ranking was particularly impacted by high traffic citation frequency.
Bostonians bad driving, unfortunately, should not come as much of a surprise to locals.
Portland vs Seattle
Though these Northwest neighbors have lots in common due to their rainy climate and fondness for the fringes, there is plenty on which to disagree. Portlanders brag about the lack of sales tax, lower cost of living, and their less-corporate nature. Seattleites disregard Portland as nothing more than a yappy little brother with an inferiority complex. Meanwhile, the rest of the country rolls their eyes watching caffeinated hippies argue.
When it comes to driving, though, there is one clear winner. Portland, the 11th worst drivers, scores poorly on our rankings. Seattle, on the other hand, finds itself in the middle of the pack at 37th. Portland drivers suffer from a high accident frequency. Seattle, on the other hand, overcame a higher-than-average DUI rate due to low accident rates. It looks like Portland is still stuck in second place. (editor's note: the author of this article is from Seattle.)
LA vs Bay Area
Fog vs smog. Hills vs highways. Density vs sprawl. Though they share the same state, it seems that the Bay Area and Los Angeles don't have much in common. There's plenty to disagree on:
- Which city has superior Mexican food? Is it San Francisco's renowned Mission burritos, or Los Angeles' legendary taco truck scene?
- Who has the bragging rights of highest cost of living? (Spoiler alert: San Francisco)
- Does riding streetcars, busses, and BART beat the 405, 110, and 10 freeways?
Los Angeles, the city with the worst traffic in the country, is not home to great drivers. In fact, according to our research, they're the 6th worst drivers in America. Their ranking is hurt by some of the highest accident and DUI rates in the country. The Bay Area, with equally high DUI rates, is close behind in 13th place. The numbers are clear: be careful when you're driving in California.
Chicago vs Detroit
Which Midwestern metropolis can claim superiority? Motown or the Windy City? Each cities has stark differences in terms of economic prosperity and how to make pizza. Their sports rivalries – from Pistons vs Bulls to Red Wings vs Blackhawks, are well-documented. Both can bond over their sky high crime rates, and the fact that they're better drivers than average.
That's right – our study says Detroit drivers are the best in the nation at 75th worst! Chicago, as the 51st worst, are also better than most. Chicago's ranking suffers due to having the 13th highest DUI rate. Regardless, it seems that the famous Midwestern Nice extends to the roadways as well.
Dallas vs Houston
H-Town vs. The Big D. A three and a half hour drive on Interstate 45 is all the separates two of Texas' big cities. There's plenty to argue about between these Southern frenemies. Dallas dismisses Houston as being nothing more than the arm pit of Texas with a bad football team. Houston, on the other hand, accuses Dallas of jealousy. Of what? Their larger population, their rodeo, their oil industry, and their skyline.
When it comes to driving, they have more similarities than differences: both cities are close to the best driving cities on our list. Houston is 60th worst, a tad better than Dallas at 56th worst. Dallas lost to Houston due to higher accident frequency. It may be wishful thinking, but perhaps their driving similarities will bring both cities closer together?
DC vs Baltimore
B'More versus The Capital. DC's residents are stereotyped as snooty, uptight, power hungry gubmint' employees. Baltimore, on the other hand, are seen as crab-eating, beer-drinking, blue collar folks living in an open warzone.
Though these cities are only 40 miles apart, they differ considerably from one another. While DC residents brag about their superior public transportation, Baltimore counters with their affordable real estate market. DC can also boast about their status as the capital, while Baltimore is just a 'regular' city. And while Baltimore was the site of an alleged unsuccessful assassination attempt on Abraham Lincoln, DC is where Lincoln was (successfully) murdered.
On the road, Baltimore did relatively well, as the 43rd worst driving city. They performed admirably in every category except accidents, where they have the ninth highest rates in the country. DC didn't do so hot at 24th out of 75 due to high accident and speeding citation rates. And DC's terrible traffic is globally renowned – a new study says their gridlock is worse than...Istanbul? Baltimore wins this one.
Memphis vs Nashville
Non-Tennessean's frequently mistake Nashville for Memphis and vice-versa. In either city, those are fightin' words. In Nashville, they'll tell you that their hot chicken is the best food in the state. In Memphis, they'll chortle through a mouthful of barbecue when they hear that. Nashville is the home of country music, while Memphis is the birthplace of rock & roll.
The differences between these neighbors will grow, as Nashville surpasses Memphis for the title of Tennessee's most populous city. While these neighbors have lots to disagree about, it seems their pretty similar when it comes to driving. Memphis ranks well at 52nd out of 75. and Nashville isn't far behind as the 44th worst. Nashville's ranking is due in part to having the 25th highest traffic citation rate, while Memphis performed admirably in every category.
St Louis vs Kansas City
With only some 250 miles along Interstate-70 separating Missouri's two largest cities, you would think St. Louis and Kansas City might get along. Perhaps, but both cities have plenty of bones to pick with each other. The biggest bone? Whose ribs are better.
Beyond battling over the best barbecue, these cities also face a cultural divide. St. Louis is the gateway to the west, while Kansas City retains a dash of that old-time charm. St. Louis faces a population decline while Kansas City adds residents. Both cities are diversifying their economies as they evolve from their past as frontier towns.
Behind the wheel, Kansas City is decidedly average at 31st out of 75. And St. Louis is only marginally better as the 34th worst drivers. Kansas City graded well in every category except speeding – their speeding citation rates is 7th highest on our list. Similarly, St. Louis has good rankings in every category except accidents, where they're the second most accident-prone city. Congratulations, KC and STL, ya'll are remarkably average.
How Bad Drivers in Your City Affect Your Car Insurance Rates
Whether you live in one of the cities with the best drivers or one of the cities with the worst drivers, it's important to have ample auto insurance. This is especially true if you call Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Riverside, or one of the nation's other "bad-driving" cities home. That's because living alongside a lot of bad drivers can impact your insurance rates even if you're a great one.
What can you do to combat this? Shop around and compare quotes from several insurance companies. That's how you find the best rates for the coverage you need. (And don't forget--it's also a good idea if you live in one of the "best-driving" cities on our list, as comparing quotes can help you save a lot of money.)
And if you're one of the bad drivers yourself? Luckily, you have a few options. But your best bet, if you'd like to continue driving without spending a fortune, is to get cheap car insurance for bad driving records.