A reader recently forwarded an e-mail ranking the worst American drivers by city, along with the suggestion "Make fun of this." While I usually don't respond to such directives, this case was different, seeing as how it came from my mother. You know how it is.
Anyway, here we go-a column about the worst drivers in America, as ranked by a well-known insurance company and recommended by Mom.
The Top 10 "Where-Did-These-People-Get-Their-Licenses?" cities are: Columbia, S.C.; St. Louis, Mo.; Greensboro, N.C.; Jackson, Miss.; Kansas City, Mo.; Orlando, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Albuquerque, N.M.
Indianapolis, in case you wondered, came in 62nd, behind such hotbeds of vehicular mayhem as Billings, Mont. (home of the 14-horse pileup), Memphis (where 63 percent of accidents are caused by tourists looking for Graceland) and Los Angeles (well, no kidding.) So yay us. We're No. 62! We're No. 62!
Except (and you knew that was coming, didn't you?) I'm not quite sure the survey is based on the proper information. It ranks drivers according to the frequency of auto accident in their cities.
This is nonsense-the unluckiest drivers, maybe. Dumbest drivers, possibly. Biggest pains in the bucket seat to a certain wellknown insurance company, absolutely. But they can't be the worst, because everybody knows the only reliable way to determine the worst drivers in America is by looking over your steering wheel.
Going by that, the worst drivers in America are:
1. The buffoon in front of you driving the plastic box with the weed-whacker engine and the go-kart tires; the camo-cap wearing, sleeve-deficient idiot beside you who keeps crowding into your lane with his jacked-up, four-wheel-drive Redneck Grocery Getter; or the moron behind you who keeps trying to drive his semi up your tailpipe.
2. Your in-laws.
3. The people in the next county. For example, the people in Noble County complain about the auto-driving skills, if you can call them that, of all those clodhoppers from LaGrange County. Shows what they know. Half the drivers in LaGrange County use horses and buggies.
4. The people in the next state. LaGrange County drivers, given their close proximity to the Michigan state line, are convinced that anyone with a Michigan license plate is an accident waiting to happen. The Michiganders say the same thing about the Indianaians. They're both right.
5. The people in every state you drive through on your vacation.
6. The 103-year-olds, God bless 'em, who like to get behind the wheels of their Cadillac El Gigantos to zoom down the road at a brisk 17 mph. And speaking of looking over their own personal steering wheels-they usually can't. However, this type of driver is pretty much concentrated in Florida.
7. Anyone who drives a Hummer, although I'm not seeing too many of them on the road these days. I guess those drivers are finding other ways to channel their inner Schwarzeneggers. Don't worry. They'll be bahck.
8. All drivers of cars less expensive than yours.
9. All drivers of cars more expensive than yours.
10. All drivers except you.
Actually, the best person to ask about bad drivers is a motorcyclist who has taken rider safety training. We're taught to be the ultimate defensive riders, seeing as how most automobiles are out to kill us, and so have a pretty good perspective on who's good and who's not. Let's just say this: The worst drivers I've ever encountered on my bike, without fail, were talking on cell phones when they tried to turn me into a hood ornament.
I blame the automatic transmission. Since they don't have to shift gears, people think they can multi-task. It takes their minds out of the game. You can't apply makeup, read The Wall Street Journal or dial the phone when you're using a clutch and shifter.
Of course, rising gas prices are about to change everything. I expect the streets to become significantly less crowded in the very near future, as people give up their cars and trucks to take advantage of central Indiana's state-of-the-art public transportation systems. Ahem.
As for me, I plan to go shopping very soon for something with a weed-whacker engine and go-kart tires. And as for that insurance company list, ignore it. I've driven in most of those cities and I can't see that one is really worse than another. They're all bad, but probably not as bad as you think. After all, they're not in Michigan.
Redmond is an author, columnist and speaker, and a consultant on business writing and workplace issues. His column appears monthly. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.