HELL ON WHEELS
By DAN GERINGER
Philadelphia Daily News
ON THE HEELS of winning No. 1 rankings as Most Out of Shape and Ugliest city dwellers in America, Philadelphians have just won another national dubious-achievement award - Most Dangerous Drivers.
After studying its policyholders' car crashes for two years in cities with more than a million residents, Allstate Insurance Co. named Philadelphians the nation's most reckless drivers.
Just in time for Fourth of July weekend!
Titled "Philadelphia Drivers Skid In Among Worst," the Allstate report found that Philly drivers averaged 6.6 years between collisions in 2005-06, making them 50 percent more likely to crash than the national-average of 10 years between collisions.
"You know how men are always blaming it on women drivers, and older drivers are always blaming it on younger drivers?" said Tracey King, Allstate communications manager. "Well, in Philadelphia, it's everyone."
In the Allstate survey, Philly's collision numbers were found to be equally dismal among males, females, pre-baby-boomers, baby boomers and Generation X-ers - and even scarier among Generation Y-ers (4.9 years between accidents).
New York City drivers average two years longer between collisions. National-best Tucson, Az.? Fuhgettaboutit! More than 10 years between crashes.
Broad Street distractions
Responding by cell phone on his way to teach a class yesterday, Frank Farley, Temple University professor of educational psychology, said: "I'm driving down Broad Street right now and it's a crazy street. I mean, are they nuts?"
Farley was referring to the median merchants hawking their wares to passing motorists who swerve over and stop suddenly to do business, regardless of traffic.
"I've been in a lot of places," Farley said, "and I don't know of any other city where they got this middle lane thing going on with people walking around selling things to drivers.
"People are in the middle of the street selling your wonderful newspaper to drivers who stop their cars and get their money out, regardless of the traffic coming up behind them.
"Other people are flogging flowers and, around Temple, pies and bottled water," he said. "I've seen drivers get very distracted when they suddenly decide they need to get some flowers without letting the drivers behind them know.
"Are the distractions on Philadelphia streets like Broad Street above average? Does this affect the collision rate?"
Farley said that when you add double parking to the mix - "I have never been in a city that allows so much double-parking" - and the habitual running of red lights in anticipation of them turning green, you've got a recipe for Philadelphia leading the nation in collisions.
"We also have a lot of old, narrow streets and one-way streets," he said. "It's tricky navigation in Center City. It's easy to get hit. Bing!"
At A Confident Driving School in Bala Cynwyd, which advertises "Results Without Yelling," an instructor identifying himself as Mark R. said: "They used to have the serpentine course in the drivers-license test, but no more.
"To drive that snake pattern between the cones without knocking them over," he said, "you had to visualize where the back of your car was. You kind of developed eyes in the back of your car.
"Now, a lot of people are only driving the front half of the car. They feel like the car is driving them. They are not in control."
Mark R. also blamed driving schools that "just teach you how to pass the driving test instead of teaching you how to pass the real test, which is staying in one piece once you get your license."