Car Accidents: Best & Worst U.S. Cities

Last Updated Sep 12, 2011 7:14 PM EDT

In a era of fierce political infighting, Washington, D.C., has racked up another negative distinction: It is now the city where you are most likely to have an auto accident.

The nation's capital took the top spot in Allstate Insurance's annual ranking of the worst cities for auto accidents, while Fort Collins, Colo., was the least likely city.

To come up with the rankings, which compare the frequency of accidents to a city's population, Allstate calculates how often the average driver is likely to have an accident -- and how that compares with the national average. In Washington, D.C. the average likely occurrence of an accident is a startling every 4.8 years -- more than twice as often as the national average of 10 years. In Fort Collins, it is every 14 years, 28% below the average.

Why does the average matter? The likelihood of an accident in your home city affects your auto insurance premiums with Allstate -- as with any other insurers, all of whom make similar calculations. After Fort Collins, the other safest cities for drivers include Boise, Idaho and Lincoln, Nebraska. All of the top 10 are small to medium-sized cities. (Among cities of more than 1 million, Phoenix ranked as the safest, with near the national average of a likely accident every 10 years.)

On the worst list, Washington's no-good neighbors include Baltimore, Los Angeles and Newark, N.J. New York City, whose drivers tend to have a poor reputation with out-of-towners, ranks 171st out of 193, with drivers likely to have an accident every 7.3 years -- 37% above the average.

To see how your city ranks, check the Allstate web site and click on "Best Drivers Data 2011."

The Allstate report asserts that "human behavior is the biggest cause of accidents," suggesting that drivers are more aggressive in the large cities near the bottom of the list. And it urges all citizens to drive safely.

But a company spokesman says that the rankings are a pure statistical analysis of the frequency of accidents that result in any property damage claim; they do not adjust for factors likely the brutally heavy traffic in Los Angeles and other large cities.

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    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.

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