While driving has become far safer over the past two decades, and accidents have slowly declined, there's still more than 5 million vehicle crashes a year in the United States, with roughly 3 million of those only causing property damage rather than injury. According to Allstate Insurance, that's enough to make the typical driver likely to get into at least a fender bender once a decade — unless they live around the cities with the worst drivers, where their chances of a wreck can double.
In its ninth annual report on traffic accidents, Allstate analyzed its claims data for 195 cities filed between January 2010 and December 2011 to determine how likely any given driver might suffer an accident. Since Allstate represents about 10 percent of the nation's insured drivers, it's claims offer an accurate picture of national trends. For the third time, Fort Collins, Colo., ranked as the city with the best drivers, who are 28 percent less likely to get into a crash than the national average. Close behind: Boise, Idaho; Sioux Falls, S.D., Brownsville, Texas, and Madison, Wis.
Top 10 cities with America's worst drivers
Chance of accident vs. nat. avg.
This year's list of the worst cities shows no sign of improvement from last year's, because the factors that make driving in any city more dangerous can take years to develop and longer to fix. Considering that Alexandria and Arlington, Va., are just suburbs of Washington, D.C., shows how bad traffic can be in the nation's capital, thanks to overcrowded roads and a city street layout full of odd-angle intersections. Add in a local economy that held its steam through the recession keeping commuters at work, and you have the right mix for numerous crashes.
Large cities rank on worst driver's list
City & Overall Ranking
Collision Chance Compared
Avg. Years Between
2.0% more likely
14.6% more likely
22.4% more likely
25.2% more likely
25.6% more likely
35.6% more likely
37.8% more likely
49.3% more likely
65.9% more likely
Crowded cities inevitably do worse on the Allstate survey, but as the ranking above of cities with more than 1 million residents show, local geography trumps population size alone when it comes to crash risk. The safest large cities tend to be Western or Midwest cities such as Denver and Milwaukee where the city layout gives drivers plenty of space on freeways and boulevards. Winding down a Philadelphia side street for a cheesesteak inevitably puts you at greater risk for some kind of dent, and the trends converge in Los Angeles, where congestion has become as common as sunshine and spray tans. Of 195 cities ranked by Allstate, no East Coast burg ranked higher than 37th.
With the economy coming back slowly, more Americans will be getting on the roads; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration already estimates that the death toll from fatal accidents went up in 2012 for the first time in seven years. Even if you drive through Fort Collins with your blinkers on, the numbers say your chances of a wreck will likely get worse.