Thursday, December 20, 2007

Not the worst

A long time ago, in a blog post far away, I was planning on following-up by tackling the issue of Lincoln having the worst driver's in the United States. Finally, I have been spurred to action by a clever article by Micah Mertes in the Lincoln Journal Star this week, and the dozens of reader comments that amused me so much.

This is, by the way, a recycling article that will appear from time to time in a column or letter to the editor. I am constantly amazed at the way Lincoln residents who immigrated from far-flung communities wistfully recall the bucolic traffic in places like Los Angeles or Atlanta, where the driver's are skilled, the traffic engineering is sophisticated, the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

I think it's a psychological thing: the idiots around you right now are clearly incompetent compared to the brilliant formula one driver's you used to commute with in San Jose.

Here's some evidence that, despite our collective belief to the contrary, Lincoln driver's probably aren't the worst. First, LSU studied alcohol-related fatalities in the largest 107 cities in the United States over a multi-year period. Lincoln was dead last. Next, CMAC Insurance commissioned a nationwide driver's test, with a scientific sampling method, and a sample size of over 5,000 drivers. Nebraska finished 7th. Finally, Allstate Insurance publishes it's annual "Best Driver's" report of collision rates in the largest 200 cities in the United States. Lincoln ranks 22nd, ahead of virtually all those places where the driver's are allegedly better, with a likelihood of collision 12% below the national average.

And for all those comments about the lack of traffic enforcement in Lincoln (despite the personal experiences of tens of thousands of motorists who received official or warning tickets from Lincoln police officers last year) I offer this: scroll down on this page to compare the number of traffic stops made by our little force of 317 sworn officers with the 787 officers at our big brother down the road.


Anonymous said...

It's rude to confuse people with facts when they already have their minds made up! :-)

Maybe they need to go sit in some of the twice-daily, enormous, and routine traffic jams I endured in SoCal. It was also so far to everything that even if you didn't hit a jam, you could put 30,000 miles on your car in a single year by just normal driving. I moved from one place that was 30 minutes from work, and that was an upgrade over the previous 45 min trip.

Michael said...

I moved to Lincoln after almost 10 years in the Denver metro area back in February and I was flabbergasted at the article's author insisting that driving in Denver was better than it is here in Lincoln. Yes, I will admit that not all of the traffic lights in this town are synchronized as well as they could be but keep in mind that getting from one end of town to the other here will still take way less time than it ever will in Denver. Also, I've seen a grand total of one accident in town in the past nine months. In Denver it was a weekly, if not daily occurrence.

Tom Casady said...

I will say this, though: In really congested cities (excluding Boston), there seems to be a mutual assured destruction phenomenon, in which your fellow inmates on the conveyor to hell will actually let you get into their lane, rather than the Nebraska way--which is to speed up and get right on the bumper of the car ahead, in order to prevent any of those interlopers from merging!

Okay, too much coffee.

Here's an interesting observation: I attend a big church (Sheridan Lutheran) with a lot of traffic between the services. Everyone waiting in the lines where aisles merge lets one other car in before proceeding. It's like shuffling a deck of cards. Several thousand people make it in and out through a pair of one-lane exits, in 15 minutes, every Sunday between 10:45 and 11:00 a.m..


Diane said...

Chief, I discovered your blog by accident and love to read what's happening in Lincoln even though I've never been to Nebraska! I can assure you that here in Virginia the drivers certainly aren't up to Lincoln's standards! Virginia Beach ranked 39 in list of Best Drivers (not as bad as I thought actually!) and Virginia was 15th in the overall National Driver's Test score.

So for all those residents who feel your drivers are bad - they aren't! PS I live 12 miles from work and it can take from 20-45 mintues (depending, of course, on traffic!).

Gun Nut said...

Chief I would love to hear your comments about Boston drivers. From my experiences with them as a driver of a big rig I would say they are the dumbest drivers on the planet.

I would place Lincoln pretty high on the list of good drivers. I do find it ironic that when you signal to make a lane change the typical Lincoln driver speeds up to block you yet when you get to a four way stop sign Lincoln drivers are very good about taking their turn. Are these the same drivers?

Anonymous said...

Do you know why the lights do not flash yellow and red after 10 pm? Omaha does this at non-busy intersections and it seems to work. I know this would not be your department but any thoughts on that?

JT said...

If you think the lights are timed bad in car just try riding a motorcycle! At night trying to trip the cement sensors or light sensors or just getting lucky, seems impossible. You will wait minutes upon minutes at a time with no cars in either direction waiting for a light to turn :(

Sometimes it is actually faster to stand the bike, walk over to the crosswalk and hit the button rather than waiting. Oops, is this against the law?

Tom Casady said...

Anon. 10:04-
Don't know. You're right, not my department. Seems like there are lots of lights around Lincoln that could safely flash in the wee hours. Probably a good reason, I just don't know what it is.

Why, this is a safety issue! Obviously, you need a larger motorcycle. Tell your wife I said so.

Tom Casady said...

Gun Nut:

I only have a couple Boston driving experiences, but it seemed like "every man for himself" compared to the rather cooperative purgatory of Southern California, Atlanta, St. Louis, and other high-congestion locales I've encountered. Your professional driving experience would probably be more informative than my rental car view.

Good point about the disconnect between genteel 4-way stop behavior and aggressive anti-merge driving in Lincoln. Here's my Junior Psychologist diagnosis: eye contact. People in Lincoln are polite, if anything.

Anonymous said...

OK... since you're addressing traffic today... :)

Say I come to a full stop at a stop sign because another car who is also stopped (as they should be). Once the car in front of me goes, do I then have to come to another full stop once I'm the first person at the sign? Or does my original stop not qualify as a full stop? :)

These are just random question that occur to me as a travel through town.


Tom Casady said...

Anon. 3:03-

You'd think there would be a simple answer to this stump-the-sergeant question, but alas, it's more complicated than that.

The relevant City ordinance 10.14.010 requires that you:

1. Stop behind the crosswalk (or, if none, stop behind the marked stop line, or if none, at the closest point to the intersecting street affording a view of approaching traffic).

2. Yield the right of way to traffic on the cross street.

So, the short answer is that if the car ahead of you has lawfully stopped at the place specified in (1) above, then you must stop at the same position before proceeding into the intersection. On the other hand, if this dingbat has already gone past the sign, line, or point of visual observation, to stop his car half-way into the intersection, you do not have to duplicate his illegal maneuver!

Clear as mud?

JT said...

@ The Chief - Well there's no wife involved, however I do not think I want a bigger bike. The one I have is scary-fast as it is!

Incidentally, The flashing orange light idea WOULD solve many motorcyclists late-night problems (cars too, I imagine)

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU for confirming my belief that it is the city religion of Lincoln to speed up if you even remotely suspect the driver in front of you wishes to merge. People complain that folks don't use their turn signals -- it's because if you actually signal your intent/desire to change lanes, some Lincoln gene kicks in that causes the upstream driver to say, "NO WAY!" and he/she slightly speeds up or slows down to impede your desire. My spouse and I actually drove all the way from 66th street to 52nd street on O one day, signaling our desire to merge into the right hand lane, and were unable to do so as driver after driver would not allow us in. Many signaled their displeasure by waving at us with one finger, too.

Anonymous said...

The problem with letting people in front of you is that you fall farther and farther behind the pack and might get left behind at the next light if it happens to be green when you get to it (not likely.) Plus it's fun to keep the little gangsters and soccer moms from being able to drive 20 miles over the speed limit.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many people Anon 12:21 passed, waiting to be "let in to" the thing I see Lincoln drivers display is a severe sense of righteousness, and not wanting to let someone in if they haven't waited for their "turn"

jm said...

I don't think Lincoln drivers are any worse than other places, but I have to admit that I am constantly amazed at how long it takes to drive across town. It can take 45 minutes on a good day. I can drive from Lincoln to Omaha in that time. Plus, there's no way to get to the Interstate from SW Lincoln without the long stop/go of lights or a huge out of the way bypass. Are there any plans for an Interstate through the city? I'm sure it's not in the budget...but I'm surprised a city this big doesn't have something to ease the congestion THROUGH town. I vote for flashing yellow lights until we get an Interstate in 2065. :)