Who and where are the best and worst drivers?

October 21, 2020

Tyson Fisher


People who drive slower than you need to get off the road, and people who drive faster are crazy. That pretty much sums up how most passenger vehicle drivers feel about their own driving, and it’s also why we love surveys that determine who are the best and worst drivers.

Recently, two surveys about who is the best and worst drivers were released. One deals with drivers at the individual and city level. The other determines where states rank in terms of their drivers.

Everyone thinks they’re an excellent driver

A recent survey conducted by insurance comparison website The Zebra asked more than 2,600 drivers in 25 major U.S. cities about their driving. Essentially, most people are Rain Man, i.e. “I’m an excellent driver.”

On a 1-5 scale, the average self-reporting score for skill was 4.1 and 4.3 for safety. When it comes to driving on busy highways (and I’m sure truckers will laugh at this), the average self-reported score was 4.3. Drivers also gave themselves an average score of 4.2 for navigating traffic in the rain (makes you wonder how Southern Californians rated themselves) and 4.1 for making three-point turns.

Drivers were less confident in their ability to drive in snow and ice, with a 3.7 average rating. Parallel parking was worse with a 3.5 average score.

As The Zebra pointed out, the notion that everyone is an excellent driver isn’t exactly consistent with crash data. According to the survey, only a third of Americans have never been in a crash.

Broken down by city, the following had the highest self-reported five-star rating for skill by percentage:

  1. New Orleans (43.8%).
  2. Miami-Fort Lauderdale (43.3%).
  3. Nashville (42.4%).
  4. Phoenix (41.2%).
  5. San Francisco (38.6%).

When it comes to five-star ratings for safety:

  1. Miami-Fort Lauderdale (51.9%).
  2. Atlanta (51.8%).
  3. Phoenix (50%).
  4. Las Vegas (48.9%).
  5. Los Angeles (48.4%).

Men have more confidence in their driving. Nearly 41% gave themselves a five-star rating for skill, compared with nearly 29% of women. For safety, 46% of men gave themselves five stars, whereas nearly 44% of women gave themselves the highest rating.

Does experience mean more skills and safer driving? According to self-reported ratings, absolutely.

More than 43% of baby boomers gave themselves a five-star rating in skill. That number drops by age: Generation X (40.8%), millennials (32.2%) and Generation Z (26.1%). That exact same pattern is present when it comes to safety ratings too.

Truckers may have noticed that many truck manufacturers are making automated transmissions standard nowadays. This is likely because younger drivers cannot drive a manual. That theory is supported by The Zebra’s survey. Among all respondents less than half (!) said they can drive a stick shift. The story is different by generation. About three-quarters of baby boomers can drive a stick shift. However, only 19% of Generation Z can. That is one wide generation gap.

Best/worst drivers graphic

Click here for the full survey results.

States with best/worst drivers

As QuoteWizard, another insurance comparison website, put it in their survey results, everyone thinks the state they live in has the worst drivers. Obviously, not everyone can be correct about that assumption. That’s why we have a thing called data.

Using 2 million insurance quotes, QuoteWizard looked into four factors when determining which states have the worst drivers: crashes, speeding tickets, DUIs and citations. Without further ado, here are the top five states with the worst drivers based on that criteria:

  1. Wyoming.
  2. Virginia.
  3. Colorado.
  4. New Jersey.
  5. South Dakota.

And the states with the best drivers?

  1. West Virginia.
  2. Missouri.
  3. Michigan.
  4. New Mexico.
  5. Texas.

Truckers might have differing opinions based on their experience.

When accounting only for crashes, the Northeast dominates. Rhode Island, Maryland and Massachusetts are the top three states regarding most wrecks. Two of the most populated states, California and New York, have drivers with the most speeding tickets. One can argue that once you get out of the densely populated cities with slow traffic, all you want to do is slam on the gas. Rural states are full of drunks, according to QuoteWizard’s data. Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Alaska top the list of number of DUIs.

Check out the full results here. LL

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Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.