Maine drivers rank among the nation’s best for safety, according to driving statistics compiled by a website and made public this week.
The rankings, done by Seattle-based www.carinsurancecomparison.com, are based on data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Motorists Association, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
The 50 states and the District of Columbia were scored according to data in five categories: traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, failure to obey, drunken driving, tickets, and careless driving. Each category may include data on several different factors. For example, failure to obey is based on National Highway Safety Administration figures for fatal accidents involving traffic safety devices and fatal crashes in which seat belts were not used.
The company compiled the data into a total score for each state; the higher the score, the worse it was ranked — the state with the worst drivers being ranked No. 1, and the best, at No. 51.
The data were contained in various reports issued in November, a company spokesman said, and the website published its rankings this week.
Maine drivers were ranked overall at No. 46, meaning they were considered among the best in the country.
By contrast, Louisiana drivers were ranked No. 1 – the worst in the nation. It is the second year in a row that drivers of the Bayou State have earned the dubious distinction from the website. Louisiana drivers were ranked in the top five in three categories — failure to obey, tickets, and careless driving.
Rounding out the top five states with the worst drivers were four other Southern states: in descending order (after Louisiana), South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama.
After Maine, the five states ranked the best were, in order, Oregon, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Utah, and Vermont, which was ranked No. 51.
In the individual categories, Maine was ranked No. 19 for traffic fatalities per 100 million miles traveled, No. 26 for failure to obey, No. 29 for drunk driving, No. 4 for tickets — a category that ranked states on the likelihood of being issued a ticket — and No. 6 for careless driving.
Maine has a number of different programs that likely contribute to its good ranking, said Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, whose department oversees the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
“There’s a whole bunch of small things, but probably taken in aggregate, it’s everybody working on the same issue from different directions,” Dunlap said this week in discussing the website’s ranking of states.
A “fair amount of credit” is due to driver education as well as efforts of law enforcement agencies and the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety, said Dunlap, who met this week with students at Oxford Hills High School in South Paris who are working on a project to improve the driving performance of people with a learner’s permit.
“We’re gratified by the ranking, but we want to do better,” said Dunlap.
As good as the news is about Maine motorists, the “statistics belie what happens to families and communities,” Dunlap added, when someone is injured or killed in an an automobile accident. “When you speak with a family of someone who’s been lost in a car crash, that’s a pretty helpless feeling.”