Tag Archives: Traffic collision

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.

Cell Phones and Driving: Do You Value Your Life?

A couple of days ago, I happened to be in the car when NPR’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show was playing. It just so happened that it was “Tech Tuesday,” and they were talking about new findings on distracted driving. Some of the findings would probably shock most people. For instance, would you have guessed that there is no (statistically) significant difference between talking on a cell phone with bluetooth and without bluetooth? I wouldn’t have. And, in fact, part of me thinks that the study maybe wasn’t designed optimally for testing the hypothesis, but I didn’t read the journal article.

One of the more interesting parts of the conversation was when one of the callers brought up the point about having cell phones automatically “lock” themselves when the car is in motion. One of the guests pointed out that this is already out there. She mentioned that there were apps that would “lock” the phone if the car is in motion. Then, Kojo brought up the point about passengers in the car — would they still be able to use their phones in the car? At this point, the guest then explained that getting around the “locked” phone is not too difficult.

After listening to this exchange, I realized that car safety (ala cell phones) is a choice. That is, it’s a choice by the driver. It’s probably not possible to completely legislate away a person’s ability to use their cell phone while driving (meaning: it likely wouldn’t hold up in court), so then it becomes a choice for driver. Does the driver want to increase their chances of causing an accident? Because that’s what happens when a driver decides to use their cell phone while driving. They’re increasing their chances of causing (or being in) an accident. To take this down a psychological tangent, it’s possible that they don’t value their life (as much as the next person) and so they’re willing to take this kind of risk.

As I got out of the car and began walking to my destination, my thoughts floated back to the 2009 book, Nudge (I think I’ve mentioned it on here before). I was trying to think of a way that we, as a society, could help nudge people to make better choices when behind the wheel. Is there some way we could nudge drivers away from using their cell phone?