We’re a divided nation in many respects. But none, apparently, more so than traffic. Namely, traffic accidents: In one of those odd coincidences that are the stuff of far too many dumb Facebook jokes, red states tend to have more fatal traffic accidents than blue ones.
Needless to say, this isn’t because of politics, unless there’s some sort of secret conspiracy among voters to get in car crashes we are somehow being left out of. It turns out there are a few very strong, very important factors that simply weigh heavily on red states when it comes to staying safe on the road.
First and foremost…
It’s fairly simple; blue states tend to be more urban. Urban areas have their downsides, but in terms of driving, it’s usually big, well-lit highways or stop-and-go traffic (sometimes the one clogging up the other). It may be frustrating, but it’s a lot less likely to get you into a wreck than narrow, twisty back roads in the dead of night.
More to the point, there are more options for getting off the road entirely: If you live in Wyoming, it’s a lot more difficult to take the bus to work than it is if you live in New York City. The less you have to use your car, the less likely you are to be in a car accident. This ties directly into our second factor:
Total Miles Driven
Furthermore, urban areas are closer together, meaning that if you need to pick up groceries or decide to go out to the movies, you’ll spend less time on the road. Rural areas, which tend to go for Republican candidates, don’t really enjoy that convenience. Even the most careful, conscientious driver in the most dangerous state is still likely to rack up a lot more miles on the road in places where they absolutely have to drive.
In addition to more time on the road, the more miles you rack up on your car, the more wear and tear is put on it and the more likely you are to experience dangerous malfunctions that put you at risk.
We’re not going to say here that some states have better police than others. Really, when it comes to, for example, drunk driving, there’s no state in America that can really argue it’s got anything to brag about. Well, except Delaware, which in 2008 only had 215 DUI arrests.
But this ties into our point about law enforcement: Delaware is less than 2500 square miles, our second smallest state. Compare that to, oh, we don’t know, Texas, which is more than 100 times as large. While there are plenty of state and city police officers doing a great job across America, they’re only people, and they can’t be everywhere, especially on smaller roads where people are more likely to misbehave.
When police have more ground to cover, almost inevitably, they’re going to be less able to stop problems before they start. A police officer pulling over a driver weaving on the road is the difference between a sleepy driver getting in the back seat for some shuteye and a driver suddenly waking up right before something awful happens.
Of course, we can all do better on the road, and it’s important that we try. But it’s also important to remember some of us just have to drive more. Our auto insurance companies sure remember that when it’s time to set our rates.