Fortune smiles upon us this day, fellow Minnesotans. For today, we have another excuse to make ourselves feel good. Better than Wisconsin, anyway.
This joy is thanks to data collected by Car Insurance Comparison, which sought to find the state with the worst drivers in the nation using fatality rates, careless driving cases, drunk driving arrests, and more. This is one of those times when being at the bottom of a list is great, and that’s where Minnesota ended up: dead last, behind Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Nebraska.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, is sitting not-so-pretty at No. 22, an improvement over last year’s rank of No. 24. The dubious honor of being in the top five goes to New Mexico, South Carolina, Arizona, Louisiana, and Texas, in that order.
The study focuses on road deaths. Minnesota's strengths are our relatively low rates of fatality—0.66 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled—overall, and a low rate of fatalities that can be blamed on failure to obey traffic laws or careless driving, which the study measured by the number of bicyclists and pedestrians killed per every 100,000 residents.
The study also tracks traffic deaths blamed on drunk driving and speeding; Minnesota comes in at No. 33 in the nation in both categories.
Wisconsin’s biggest issues seem to be drunk driving deaths (No. 5) and failure to obey (No. 10).
Before we start patting ourselves on the back for ostensibly not sucking, it’s important to remember that being the best of the worst still isn’t great.
On the one hand, our low pedestrian death rate is certainly bucking the trend nationwide, where fatal crashes have increased 35 percent in the past decade. Minnesota has mostly held steady at just under 40 deaths a year.
More recently, we saw an unexpected jump in fatalities in the first few months of 2019. By May, we’d lost 17 people, whereas by that point the year before, we’d lost only 11.
Meanwhile, our DUI arrest rate (already nothing to be proud of) is on the rise these past few years. Nearly 28,000 drivers were cited in 2019, nigh a 5 percent bump from the year before. That's not just for alcohol use—cannabis, opioids, meth, and other substances contributed, too.
On the more intimate, local level, our headlines are still full of tragic stories about people losing their lives, their best friends, and their ability to cross the goddamn street to cars. Before we give ourselves a hand, let’s keep both of them on the wheel and remember being the best doesn't mean you can't get better.