News & Politics

Washington Home to Nation’s Worst Drivers, But At Least We’re Driving Less

An insurance company says motorists in the Washington area crash their cars far more often than the national average, but longer-term data might offer a silver lining.

A common sight in DC and the surrounding area. Photograph by Flickr user Andrew Bossi.

In case advocates of biking, walking, and public transportation needed more in the arsenal to encourage Washington-area residents to refrain from driving Allstate Insurance dutifully supplied it. Drivers who live in DC are the worst among a ranking of nearly all of the 200 biggest US cities, crashing their cars more than twice as often as the national average. And motorists who live in the suburbs aren’t much better.

Washington finished dead last in a ranking of 195 cities, holding on to an ignominious standing it also nabbed last year. On average, DC drivers go 4.8 years between accidents, according to Allstate. But people just outside the District have no reason to smirk at accident-prone Washington. Residents of Alexandria, which finished in 188th place, get in collisions an average of once every 6.2 years, while 185th-ranked Arlington drivers crash every 6.7 years. And Baltimore finished just one rung from the bottom.

Of course, the rankings are a little tenuous. The figures are based solely on claims filed with Allstate, and in general, drivers in big cities smash up their vehicles far more often than those in small towns. New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Miami were all in the bottom 25, too.

But there might be a silver lining in another survey put out today by the US Public Interest Research Group which states that in general, people in DC—and elsewhere around the country—are driving less. PIRG’s report states that the rate at which DC residents drive peaked in 2003, but that since then, the number of miles spent in cars by an average Washingtonian has dipped by 14.4 percent.

In 2011, PIRG reports, the typical DC resident traveled 5,774 vehicle-miles, down from 7,371 in 2003. Only Alaska experienced a bigger drop off its peak driving year.

The declines were more sluggish in Virginia and Maryland, though still considerable. Virginia residents traveled an average of 10,001 miles by car in 2011, down 5.8 percent from the peak of 10,753 in 1999. In Maryland, the average distance driven declined to 9,646 miles in 2011, off a peak of 10,057 four years earlier.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.