And the safest U.S. driving city is …

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Human behavior is the biggest cause of accidents. [That’s why] it is vital for us to educate American drivers about safe driving behaviors they can demonstrate on the road that will help make our roadways safer.” –Mike Roche, executive vice president, Allstate's Claim Organization

Would it surprise anyone if a survey found some of the “best” U.S. drivers are located in small to medium cities, while the “worst” congregate in the largest metropolises in the country?

I would think not.

That’s of course one of the findings gleaned from the seventh annual Best Drivers Report compiled by Allstate Insurance Co., based on two year’s worth of the company’s accident claim data.

Allstate’s report ranks America's 200 largest cities in terms of car collision frequency to identify which cities have the safest drivers … and for 2011, the firm tapped Fort Collins, CO, as "America's Safest Driving City,” which is actually the second year in the row that Fort Collins grabbed the top spot.

According to Allstate’s figures, the average driver in Fort Collins will experience an auto collision every 14 years, which is 28.6% less likely than the national average of 10 years. By contrast, however, Washington D.C. – our nation’s capitol and my hometown – is ranked 193rd, with drivers here averaging an accident every 4.8 years.

[Allstate shares some other data from its annual report in the video below.]

It’s worth noting that the top five “safest driving cities” in the U.S. are all smaller to medium sized locations, while most of the biggest metropolises in the country rank near the bottom.

Boise, ID, follows Fort Collins as the second safest driving city, with 13.4 years between accidents by the average driver, with Lincoln, NE, ranked third (12.9 years), Chandler, AZ, in fourth place (12.6 years) and Huntsville, AL, rounding out the top five (12.3 years).

By contrast, the only big metro city managing to maintain a double digit ranking is Phoenix, AZ, placing 55th with 10.1 years between accidents. Detroit, MI, is ranked 115th with 8.9 years between accidents, with nearby Chicago, IL, ranked 157th (7.7 years), New York, NY, at 171st (7.3 years), Los Angeles, CA, at 182nd (6.6 years), Philadelphia, PA at 186th (6.2 years), and finally lowly Washington D.C. at 193rd (4.8 years). Not a good showing by any stretch of the imagination.

By the way, a poll commissioned by Allstate Canada last year found that the bugaboo of “distracted driving,” which can lead to many accidents, covers a very broad range of behaviors behind the wheel as the news report below shows. On interesting stat in uncovered: taking your eyes off the road for as few as five seconds while driving about 55 miles per hour – equal to the 90km/hr figure in the study – is like driving the length of a football field blindfolded.

Again, back to the “safest driving cities” report, Allstate said its actuaries conduct an in-depth analysis of company claim data to determine the likelihood of drivers in America's 200 largest cities experiencing a vehicle collision compared to the national average.

The firm noted that internal property damage reported claims were analyzed over a two-year period (from January 2008 to December 2009) to ensure the findings would not be impacted by external influences such as weather or road construction, with a weighted average of the two-year numbers determining the annual percentages.

By the by, Allstate’s report defines an auto crash as any collision resulting in a property damage claim and, as Allstate represents about 10% of all U.S. auto policies, the company believes its report is a realistic snapshot of what's happening on America's roadways.

Finally, a few last thoughts. Allstate also offers what it believes are several “safe driving tips” boiled down from its observations that vehicle operators should use to help reduce their chances of a crash”

Minimize distractions - Engaging in any other activity while driving - talking on your cell phone, text messaging, changing a radio station, putting on makeup - is a distraction.

Be aware of road conditions - Ice, snow, fog, rain - all of these weather conditions require extra caution and slower speeds.

Leave a safe distance between your car and others around you - Maintain at least one car length space between your car and the vehicle in front of you for every 10 miles per hour of speed.

Steer clear of road rage - Reduce stress on the road by allowing plenty of time for travel, planning your route in advance, and altering your schedule or route to avoid congested roads. Remember not to challenge aggressive drivers and stay as far away from them as possible.

Maintenance matters - Ultimately, safety also depends on the maintenance of your car. Ensure that your car brakes, exhaust system, tires, lights, battery and hoses are in good working order.

Basic stuff, to be sure, but sometimes it’s good to review the basics – especially as they can reduce your chances of getting into an accident down the road.

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