Tag Archives: Driving

Which US City Has the Worst Drivers: No Weather Variable?

A few days ago, there was an article on Slate that claimed to investigate which US city had the worst drivers. I thought the article was interesting as it’s probably something that everyone has an opinion on. That is, we all think that we know where the worst drivers in the US live. After reading the article, I was surprised — thoroughly — that there wasn’t a mention of weather.

Having grown up in Canada, (near Toronto), I am absolutely used to driving in snow and other forms of precipitation. After having lived in 4 different US states (and spending time in 31 others), I feel supremely confident in saying that not everyone is comfortable driving in forms of precipitation. While not an extraordinary revelation by any means, it still seems important. I had to read through the article a couple of times because I didn’t believe there was no mention of ice, snow, snain, or something else related. Weather absolutely affects the way that people drive and their comfort with precipitation will have certainly affect their ability to drive.

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I’ve written before about unexpected snow in Washington, DC, but I don’t think I’ve talked about one of the conversations I’ve had with someone who’s lived in Metro DC for over a decade. She was explaining to me that, not only do you have such a wide variety of drivers in the DC area (those who’ve moved from the South or those who’ve moved from the North or those who’ve moved from the West, etc.), but you’ve also got the weather. More specifically, she was explaining that the “moderate” winters in DC make it awful for driving conditions. When the temperature hovers near freezing, the afternoon rain turns into morning ice. For those who have no experience driving in icy conditions, it can certainly cause drivers to be extra cautious (or mistakenly, not be cautious enough).

This is why I think it is important for any discussion of “the worst drivers” to include a weather variable. Sometimes, we need to be careful we’re not misappropriating the blame.

The Best Laid Plans… Are Flexible

Forgive me for the long absence (it’s been a week since my last post). In fact, I even missed my weekly cognitive bias yesterday. I’ve been out of town for the last couple of weeks. In fact, the last post I wrote was on a train from Toronto to Ottawa. Nonetheless, something happened this weekend that I think makes for a perfect post. (Note: look for the weekly cognitive bias in tomorrow’s post.)

On Sunday morning, I was scheduled to drive from Ottawa back to the DC area. I was in Ottawa for my brother-in-law’s wedding. As Saturday was a rather late night, waking up early and heading back to DC didn’t seem like a good idea, so I woke up without an alarm. Upon waking, I was still pretty tired. As a result, I didn’t get on the road until later than anticipated.

After driving through New York, I was pretty tired. I still had about 5 hours to go and it was nearing the seven o’clock hour. Normally, I would have thought to myself, ‘I’ve gotta get home — push through this.’ Just as an aside: I’ve done quite a bit of ‘long drives’ in my day. I grew up in the Greater Toronto Area and went to school in mid-Michigan, so there were frequent trips back and forth. I’ve also driven across the US twice (remember these two posts?) and back and forth from DC to Toronto or DC to Ottawa.

So, long drives aren’t foreign to me. In fact, of the long drives I’ve done, I can only remember once stopping in a hotel for the night. That was on a drive from Virginia Beach back to mid-Michigan. I was down in Virginia Beach over New Year’s for a conference and when I made my way into Ohio, there was a pretty bad snow storm that made the driving difficult. Instead of pushing through at the end of a long trip, I decided to stay the night somewhere. I was really happy with that decision. Back to this past Sunday.

I’ve got about 5 hours to get back to DC, it’s around 7 o’clock, and I’m still really tired from the night before. I reviewed my Monday schedule to remind myself that I didn’t have any obligations on Monday until the afternoon. I weighed the cons and pros of driving to DC, while still being quite tired. In the end, it didn’t seem worth it — I stopped in Scranton for the night.

What’s the takeaway?

Plans can change. New data are unending and it’s important to notice that. At the 
start of my trip last week, I would have — without a doubt — planned on driving back to DC sans stops. However, with the late night on Saturday and the late start 
to the drive on Sunday, by the time dinnertime on Sunday rolled around, I was ready to grab some grub and hit the sack.

My point here is that it’s important to stay flexible even when you have an idea of how something “should be.”

Note #1: If you’d like a different perspective on the matter of how something “should be,” I’d urge you to read this: “We’ll See…

Note #2: I should say that I wasn’t alone on this drive. My lovely wife was with me and it was our mutual decision to stop in Scranton. Although, we’ve been known to drive straight through on many occasions.

Let’s Treat All Cars Like School Buses: Drive Safe!

According to the , “Fatalities per 100 million Vehicle Miles Traveled” has been trending down since 2005. In 2005, there were 1.46 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. This means that for every 100 million miles traveled by car in the United States, there were 1.46 fatalities. That may sound like a rather low number, but consider that since this particular statistic has been kept, the highest this number has ever been was back in the first year it was kept, 1994, when the number was 1.73. In the years following 2005’s number of 1.46, we’ve seen the number go to 1.42 in 2006, to 1.36 in 2007, to 1.26 in 2008, and to 1.13 in 2009 (numbers for 2010 were not reported as of the writing of this post).

Looking merely at the statistics, this number seems to be trending downwards more than in any other 5-year period since 1994. While on the face of the statistical trend, it’s great, but really, should this number be above zero?

As I was driving home the other day, I saw a school bus van. Immediately, even before I could read ‘school bus’ on the side of the van, I was able to recognize the color of the van and know that it must have been a school bus. Typically, when I see a school bus, I tend to slow down (even a little bit). I would guess that the fair majority of the population would do the same. Why do we do this? Well, in part, . More than that, I slow down when I see a school bus because usually, there are kids on-board, and who wants to cause an accident that harms children?

As a nation, and maybe a species in general, we tend to look more favorably upon our young. That is, when faced with a moral dilemma upon saving people, we almost always save the child over ourselves (or other older people in the group). There are many different theories as to why this is, but I won’t get into them. I’m more interested in our behavior in the car around school vehicles. We slow down when we see school vehicles, but why don’t we slow down when we see other vehicles?

Shouldn’t we drive with the same care and caution, all the time, that we do when we see a school vehicle? When we see a school vehicle, something about the vehicle stands out (), and we immediately are more cautious with our driving. I think we should be just as cautious around other cars as we are around school buses. What if all cars were painted the same color as school buses? Do you think we’d be just as cautious around other cars as we are around school buses? My guess is that the attention-grabbing feature of the color would soon fade as we all became accustomed to seeing that color on every car.

But shouldn’t we still drive as if every car is a school bus? Every car on the road carries “precious cargo” — another human being. All life, old, young, middle-aged — is precious. All life is worth preserving and caring for. There needn’t be any fatalities when one is trying to go from point A to point B. It’s just unnecessary. Wouldn’t you want someone who makes a turn down a windy country road, who sees the light blue color of your car to slow down a little, because you’re approaching from the other direction? I certainly would.