What the hell is he smokin’?, you might ask. Anyone who has driven in Boston knows that the only way to get anywhere in the city is to completely disregard the laws and any respect one might have for other cars, pedestrians or drivers. Driving behavior doesn’t change as you leave the city, either – the asylum lets its inmates out at 5 o’clock every day and they take their cars and a full-days worth of pent up frustration on the road with them when they exit the city’s boundaries. This causes a domino-effect across most of the state – Massachusetts is a pretty small place, after all.
This month’s Car and Driver magazine ranks the 50 states in terms of their “friendliness” to motorists. They have a pretty complete spreadsheet of all their sources of data available here. Now, in terms of overall “friendliness”, Massachusetts ranks 20th – I’m shocked it’s that high, actually. But, one of the factors used in determining “friendliness” is on-road fatalities. Surprisingly, Massachusetts shines in this category with only 0.87 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. For what it’s worth, Mississippi was the worst in this category with 2.28 and the entire country came in with 1.44.
In trying to figure out what this means. I immediately asked the question, “well, what about accidents that resulted in injuries, but not death?” I’m afraid that the data doesn’t cover this. It could be, after all, that Massachusetts driver’s driving habits just include a blatant disregard for personal property and a strong desire to send a message about who is in control, with no intent or desire to go any further than that. Perhaps they follow George Carlin’s mocked description of Mohammad Ali’s refusal to go to war. “I’ll beat ’em up, but I won’t kill ’em.”
Of course, the key to data is how you interpret it and, in this case, the data creates more questions than answers. The end results are the end results, though, and fewer deaths is always a good thing. Other than that, you can’t draw much more from the numbers as presented (at least in terms of on-road fatalities, there is plenty of other good information in the data presented). As Csaba Csere, the author of the article and editor in chief of Car and Driver points out, “I suspect this says more about the higher willingness of Massachusetts drivers to buckle up than it does about their inherent driving talent . . .”