‘Michigan has the worst drivers in the nation,” I muttered, my foot crushing my brake pedal to the floorboards below.
I’ve groaned those eight words to myself every week this winter during my twice-daily, 20-minute commute across Traverse City. It’s a sentence usually triggered by some blatant violation of both traffic law and common sense. And it’s usually followed by some head shaking and a string of insults directed toward the guilty driver.
This time it was triggered by the cellphone-jabbering pilot of a Volkswagen who apparently missed the day in driver’s education class when the instructor introduced students to the stop sign.
Her hands flailed with the vim and vigor of her obviously important conversation. She sped past a required stop and straight into my path, narrowly avoiding the clutches of natural selection while my tires groped for grip on the slick pavement.
My horn blared. Her eyes rolled. We parted ways.
Mere moments earlier, I had watched another driver slide sideways down the second half of a steep hill near the intersection of La Franier and Airport roads. He managed to test both his own intestinal fortitude and that of several other drivers who crossed his trajectory. His pickup landed a mere hair’s length from a blender of cross traffic at the intersection’s red light.
I had plenty of time to ponder my claim that night while rolling home at an agonizingly-slow pace on the skating rinks we call roads. My daily game of Detroit dodge ball gives way to a relatively relaxing stroll home a short distance outside of the Traverse City limits.
Then, the city lights fading in my rear-view mirror and my pulse finally settling from a sprinter’s pace, it struck me.
I’ve accused drivers in at least 13 states of being the worst, probably convicting most of them without so much as a shred of actual statistical evidence.
Drivers from Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming all have landed themselves on the other end of my self-righteous fist shaking from the driver’s seat. But which ones actually are the worst?
Sure, some of them were doing the most discourteous and dangerous things imaginable on four wheels, but a little research showed my claim of the “worst” was a little less than accurate.
A report published by an insurance industry research group last year named Louisiana’s drivers the worst in the nation. The study compiled data from several sources, including the National Transportation Safety Board, and created a table ranking states based on drivers’ apparent incompetence.
Louisiana’s motorists landed their state on the unfavorable end of the list for their apparent failure to obey traffic signals, drunken driving, tickets and careless driving.
Continuing down the leader board, only two of the states where I’ve whined about neglectful drivers made even the top 10 — none of them in the top five.
Heck, Michigan’s drivers must be doing something right. Our four-wheel jockeys ranked on the better half of the list.
So, from now on, when my hand smashes the horn and my foot stomps the brake, I’ll be grumbling a little different tune.
“Michigan has the 35th worst drivers in the nation.”
Reach Record-Eagle Features Editor Nathan Payne at email@example.com.