SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Are Alaskans really driving each other crazy?



December 15, 2014
Monday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
There's been a bit of chatter on SITNEWS recently regarding parking and driving in Our Fair Salmon City.

jpg  Dave Kiffer

I will not enter the fray about parking except to note that I have seen a recent rise in people "splitting" parking spaces, particularly at the larger lots. I would like to think that it's just carelessness, but I suspect something more intentional is involved.

More often than not, the "splitters" who seem to park in two separate spaces at once seem to own fairly spiffy cars and trucks. I would guess they are taking up two spaces in order to lessen the likelihood that someone else will open a car door and bump or scratch "their baby."

That is a concern, but really how long do vehicles stay pristine in our Stubbed Toe of the Woods? (See previous SITNEWS Column)

I've had my current car about eight years and I consider it relatively unscathed because it only has a "few" scrapes and dings. My wife's car is more than 20 years old and it has a "few" more. We consider them badges of honor given the driving "issues" we all face.

Liam will at some point (soon, scarily) inherit his mother’s Toyota and he is bummed it is “pre-dented.” He would prefer a brand new car. I – of course – would prefer a Duesenberg. Ain’t neither never gonna happen.

Because driving new cars here is like living in a mobile home in Oklahoma. You might as well just put a big target on your “asset.”

Just a few weeks ago, I pulled into one of our older narrower parking lots and I "nudged" one of the other cars. A woman quickly appeared and shouted "I know who owns that car, she's gonna be mad."

Gee, thanks.

Turns out the car owner was not mad. The "scrape" was actually removed with my spit and a wee bit of elbow grease. That's the way we take care of most things around here. If that doesn’t work, bumper car colored Duct Tape does. Pre-Dented is a normal state of affairs.

But I digress.

Rodney Dial recently wrote a marvelous letter about local driving habits and I agree with him 100 percent. His Top Ten Ketchikan Traffic Issues were spot on. If we all followed them, driving around Ketchikan would be a lot more civil.

Personally, I would love to see permanent banishment from Revillagigedo for anyone who insists upon turning left across Tongass Avenue (and therefore blocks others) at any time, but then I can be a little Draconian at times.

All of which, finally, leads me to the topic du jour. Despite the irritation they cause, how bad are Ketchikan's drivers really?

Natch, I only have anecdotal local evidence to go on. In my opinion they are pretty danged bad!

You know how we say pilots here are the best in the world because of “the weather.” The same does not hold true for drivers! IMHO!

But if you look statewide, the website recently attempted to quantify which state has the "worst" drivers and I think the results will surprise y'all. (Car Insurance Comparison - Worst Drivers By State)

We all spend lots of time grumbling about what idiots the other Alaskan drivers are. But what do the statistics say?

That things could be a lot worse.

Only three states have BETTER drivers statistically than Alaska. Minnesota, Iowa and New Hampshire. Every other state in the country has WORSE drivers than Alaska.

So, put that in your newly legalized hash pipe and smoke it! (Nota bene, I absolutely, positively, 100 percent do not mean that literally!)

The website measured a variety of things including traffic fatalities per capita, failure to obey things like traffic lights and speed laws, drunk driving and careless driving (hitting things you shouldn't hit like pedestrians and bicycles).

Naturally, the top 10 worst states all kinda make sense when you think about it. Well, except for #8, but we'll get to that in a minute. Number #10 was Missouri. Of course, what do they say when the Trooper asks "Do you know how fast you were going?" "

"Show me."

Number #9 was Oklahoma. Which not coincidentally had the highest rate of "failure to obey" that which should obeyed. Really, what is the point of a stop sign in Oklahoma? It just makes it that much slower when you are trying to get out of the place. Or it you are attempt to avoid the hourly tornado.

Number #6 was a tie between Nevada and Louisiana. Both were faulted for significant levels of careless driving. Natch, one state has a great big Mardi Gras for distraction and the other state has 365 Mardi Gras a year.

But the king of careless driving is apparently Delaware at #5. To make matters worse, Delawegians also have higher levels of drunk driving and speeding. Go figure. I guess we all have to be good at something.

North Dakota was #4. Again the levels of drunk driving and traffic fatalities were unacceptably high. Even in a state that is long, flat, endless and empty. Interestingly enough, the speeding rates are declining in North Dak. Guess, it must be the shorter distances between oil wells.

Texas is always near the top in any ranking and it came it at #3. Once again fatalities and careless driving were the big ticket items, although drunk driving has dropped somewhat. I’m guessing the closure of Gilley's is finally having a ripple effect.

Which leaves us with two states tied for #1, South Carolina and Montana. Technically, speeding doesn't exist in Montana since they pretty much got rid of the speed limits. But Montana remains the national champion as far as drunk driving. And when accidents occur in South Carolina, they are more likely to be fatal than anywhere else.

So Montana and South Carolina are “Your American Idols” as far bad driving is concerned.

Finally, Number #8 was a puzzlement. Hawaii.

Now, I thought that everything was perfect in Alohaville. Remember earlier surveys? Safest place to live, mostest happiest residents, people least likely to care enough to even fill out the survey. Etc. etc. etc.

Turns out there is a dark side.

Hawaiians are national champeens when it comes to speeding!

That's just blows all my illusions.

Really, you don't think about any one in Hawaii needing to be in a hurry to do anything. The whole point to living in Hawaii is to not be in a hurry, right?

Of course, there is one stat from the survey that causes me to question the results.

One of the reasons that Alaska placed so well in the final results?

Supposedly, according to this survey, drivers in Alaska are more likely to obey traffic laws and devices than drivers in every state, except Maryland.



I want a recount.


Related Study:

Car Insurance Comparison - Worst Drivers By State

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More Columns by Dave Kiffer

Historical Feature Stories by Dave Kiffer


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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