In my experience, Seattle drivers don’t speed, change lanes wildly or run lights while routinely offering to yield the right of way at all-way stop intersections. But they’re apparently damn lousy drivers, anyway.
Allstate Insurance just came out with its fourth annual list ranking drivers in the nation’s 200 largest cities by safety since I became New To Seattle in 2011. In the year before I arrived, Seattle ranked No. 128 out of 200, which wasn’t so great, since No. 1 is the best and No. 200 the worst. The 2011 list dropped Seattle down to No. 147. A year later, Seattle sank to No. 154. The 2013 roster lowered Seattle drivers to No. 160.
And now? Drum roll please. Seattle fell another 13 clicks to No. 173. The Emerald City now ranks among the bottom seventh.
The Allstate methodology uses its vast claims database to calculate the average number of years between accidents. The longer the time, the safer the local drivers are presumed. In Seattle that interval was 7.4 years, which Allstate said was 36% worse than the national average.
Part of the drop may be due to a change in methodology. The fine print say Allstate for the first time used geolocation data to separate out accidents in zip codes that straddle municipal boundaries. Seattle has a number of these.
In past years Seattle defenders said the study didn’t take into account the many months of the year in which local roads were wet. But Allstate this year also ran the numbers to adjust ranking for rain and snow. Seattle came out just one position better, No. 173.
The gap between Seattle and the other Washington State cities ranked is pronounced. Spokane was No. 71, Vancouver WA No. 94. Even Tacoma did better, at No. 153. In case you wonder, the safest drivers were found in Fort Collins, Colo.; Brownsville, Tex.; and Boise. The worst were located in Worcester, Mass.; Boston, Mass.; and the Other Washington.
From personal observation, it is my speculation that a factor here might be the distraction from widespread hand-held cell phone use, all of it illegal. I already have experienced one rear-end accident by a driver I suspect was chatting with his girlfriend, and plenty of close calls as a pedestrian encountering yakety-yak motorists.
I can only imagine future Seattle rankings once the impact of legal recreational marijuana, which took effect this summer, works its way into the database. Accident, man, what accident?