Why Are Iowa Drivers So Safe?

Last week we reported that you can feel pretty safe the next time you drive down the streets of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, because a new study from Allstate Insurance Company ranked the residents of Cedar Rapids as the safest drivers in the U.S. The finding came in "America's Best Drivers Report," the first-of-its kind ranking of U.S. cities with populations 100,000-plus.  Among the revelations was the fact that the average driver in the central Iowa city will experience an auto collision every 15 years, compared to the national likelihood of a crash every 10 years.  This makes Cedar Rapidians 33.28 percent less likely to have an accident than the national average.

But the big question is how do they do it?  What makes Cedar Rapids such an icon of driving safety?  Perhaps surprisingly, there are answers.  First, Cedar Rapids takes a serious and proactive approach to roadway improvements and law enforcement, according to city safety commissioner and police officer Dave Zahn.

"Our traffic engineers work hand-in-hand with the community members to minimize traffic congestion and collision frequency," Zahn said. "For example, we recently expanded a 15-block strip of Mt. Vernon Road, one of our busier streets, from four lanes to five. Since its completion, collisions are down 66 percent on that stretch of road."
Zahn also pointed to Cedar Rapid's courteous driving style as a reason for the city's top ranking. He outlined lessons that all drivers could learn from Cedar Rapids residents.  Among them:

Signs mean something.  Traffic signs are here to help us. "Yield, stop and school zone speed limits are meant to be followed, not ignored," Zahn said.

Respect sirens. "Pull over to the side of the road when you see emergency vehicles," Zahn said. "I always tell people 'You never know. You may be the one in the back of that ambulance some day.'"

A yellow really does mean caution.  "Slow down -- don't speed up -- when approaching a yellow light," Zahn stressed.

Speeding gets you nowhere fast. "Exceeding the speed limit won't get you to your destination any faster," Zahn said. "The few minutes you save you'll lose sitting at the next red light anyway."
Courtesy matters on the road, too.  "Treat those you share the road with the same as you would your friends, family and co-workers," Zahn concluded.

While drivers in Cedar Rapids seem to out-pace their fellow Americans in courtesy, consideration and adherence to traffic rules, the national outlook isn't as rosy.  Nationwide, U.S. drivers experienced more than 8.7 million collisions during the two-year period examined by the study, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Insurance notes more crashes occur on Saturdays than any other day of the week. Friday ranked second and Thursday came in third. Collisions are least likely to occur on Sundays thanks, no doubt, to the quality of Sunday drivers. Collisions are most likely to happen between three and six PM.  The fewest crashes occur between midnight and three am.

Driving Today Contributing Editor Luigi Fraschini does most of his driving between midnight and three AM just to stay safe.