Are Democrats Better Drivers Than Republicans?

December 23, 2013

Last week, we published an article about the worst (and best) drivers in America. A study carried out by revealed that the worst drivers -- based on fatality rates, traffic citations, and other factors -- tended to live in the South, with better drivers situated in the Northeast and Midwest.

We tossed out a couple of our own theories for the curious clustering. It could, for example, be totally random, though there's also some overlap between the worst-driving states and states with high poverty rates. Several of you wrote in with other ideas:

Tickets as a revenue source: Several commenters claim that poorer communities often depend on traffic tickets for a substantial portion of municipal and county revenue. Though we've had a hard time finding state-by-state data to back that up, there's no denying that the worst-driving states tend to have high rates of poverty. If that, in turn, has caused those states to generate additional revenue by issuing additional citations, it could've skewed the study's conclusions. 

Republicans worse drivers than Democrats: Shortly after we published the study, one regular reader wrote in to suggest that most of the worst-driving states were "red", while the best-driving states were "blue". While there's some truth to that assessment, the degree of truth varies, depending on how you define states as Republican or Democrat. Looking at stats on party affiliations of voters, the case becomes pretty muddy (sorry for the Wikipedia citation), but it's a little cleaner if you examine the way in which states voted in the 2012 presidential election.  

Stress makes for good driving: Another reader suggested that states where drivers were more stressed tended to be better drivers. Which is interesting, we suppose, but it doesn't explain why high-stress states like Kentucky and West Virginia failed to make the best-driving list.

"It's not us, it's the immigrants": One of the most specious claims came from a resident of North Dakota who insisted that motorists in that state are totally awesome behind the wheel. The only reason that North Dakotans ended up on the worst-driving list was because of all those out-of-staters:

"I am from ND. It would be interesting to see how we ranked as drivers several years ago before the oil boom. You see, in ND and MT we have many people who have migrated from the South to find work in the oil field. I suspect they are the ones driving up our ranking. There has been a very dramatic increase in traffic accidents, citations, etc. with the upswing in the oil boom. [The author of the article] suspected there was a loose correlation due to poverty. I'm sure this is not the case. It's all of those from South that have migrated North. The oil boom has drastically changed our state and our economy. I guess a byproduct of this is that we have inherited the crappy drivers from the South."

Which isn't entirely without merit -- after all, migration patterns could have an effect on things like traffic volume, ticketing, and such. But it's also a great example of finger-pointing, and it conveniently sidesteps the question of why other states with big oil and gas booms aren't also on the worst-ten list.

Do any of these explanations ring true to you? Or do you see some correlations that no one's spotted yet? Or is the original study just a load of bunk? Sound off in the comments below.


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