Salt Lake City drivers are improving but still worse than average, study says

(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) Salt Lake City police and tow truck works to clear automobile accident scene at 800 South and State Street Friday Dec. 23 in which a SUV was thrown onto its roof.

Cruising into Labor Day weekend — one of the deadliest times on the nation’s highways — new rankings say Salt Lake City drivers are improving, and those in West Valley City are getting worse.

But motorists in both still crash more often than average.

Salt Lake City now ranks No. 48 among the nation’s 200 largest cities, up 10 spots from No. 58 last year, in the annual America’s Best Drivers Report by Allstate Insurance that was released Wednesday.

Adjacent West Valley City fell to No. 93, dropping 19 places from No. 74 the previous year.

The report says the average driver in the nation will be involved in a crash once every 10 years. But it happens once every 9.3 years in Salt Lake City, and once every 8.3 years in West Valley City, the study said, based on data for drivers there who are insured by Allstate.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Traffic on State Street in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, January 17, 2018.

The study said that for the larger Salt Lake metro area, including all nearby suburbs, drivers are in crashes once every 9.8 years — about the same as the national average.

The new report also includes data for how often drivers have “hard braking” events — which it said indicates unsafe driving behavior such as following too closely, or aggressive or distracted driving. It is measured by people who voluntarily use Allstate’s Drivewise telematics program that rewards safe drivers with cash.

The average driver nationally has 19 hard-braking events per 1,000 miles traveled. In Salt Lake City, it is 22.2, and in West Valley City, it is 22.1. For the overall Salt Lake metro area, it’s 17.8.

“We hope this year’s Best Drivers Report encourages more people to buckle up, slow down and minimize distractions to reduce their risks when they’re traveling over the holiday and all year-round,” said David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The nation’s safest large city for driving, the report said, is Brownsville, Texas, where drivers go an average of 13.6 years between crashes — 26 percent better than the national average.

Other top cities include Kansas City, Kan., 13.1 years between crashes; Boise, Idaho, 13.1 years; Huntsville, Ala., 11.9 years; and Madison, Wis., 11.8 years.

The worst large cities to drive in America were Baltimore, where an average driver is in a crash every 3.8 years; Boston and Washington, every 3.9 years; Worcester, Mass., every 4.4 years; and Glendale, Calif., every 5.1 years.

Utah drivers have been ranked lower (so better) in some other national surveys in recent years.

In December, Utah drivers were ranked third worst in the nation in a study by QuoteWizard, a website for comparing car insurance. That actually was an improvement because the previous year, it ranked Utah as having the nation’s worst drivers.

That study looks at such things as car crashes, traffic tickets and drunken driving.

Four years ago, Insure.com ranked Utah drivers as the 10th rudest in the nation.

But on the other end of the spectrum, CarInsuranceComparison.com ranked Utahns as the nation’s second-best drivers in 2014, based largely on low fatality and drunken-driving rates.