Are Utah drivers really as bad as some have proclaimed over the years?

Not if you examine the new Allstate America's Best Drivers Report released today. It shows Utah drivers are about average.

Salt Lake City ranks right in the middle of the nation's 200 largest cities for safe driving, landing at No. 99 in Allstate Insurance Co.'s fifth annual report.

Allstate ranks the cities in terms of collision frequency to identify which ones have the safest drivers. Among 89 cities of similar population (200,000 and below), Salt Lake City again fell right in the middle at No. 44.

According to the report, the average Salt Lake driver will experience an auto collision every nine years and is 10.8 percent more likely to be involved in an accident than the national average. That is a decrease of one year in the average length of time between collisions since 2005.

Despite falling in the middle of the rankings, Salt Lake City is leaps and bounds from Washington, D.C., the lowest-ranked city on the list with an average of 5.1 years between collisions.

Sioux Falls, S.D., has the nation's safest drivers — 13.5 years between crashes — for the fourth year in a row, according to the report.

"In my opinion, it certainly isn't bad news," said Robert Parenti, president of the Utah Safety Council.

Parenti credits Salt Lake City's wide and well-laid-out streets, government safety programs such as speed and DUI enforcement, and orange crosswalks flags to increase pedestrian visibility for the city's fair showing.

"Salt Lake Valley governments and law enforcement have been proactive in making Salt Lake City safely drivable and walkable," he said.

Parenti agrees that these and other statistics show that Utah drivers may not be the best, but they aren't the worst either.

"I've driven in many other states," he said. "California drivers are not better than Utah drivers."

Utah also had a decrease in auto fatalities last year with 275 deaths, which was below the five-year average of 288.

According to the National Safety Council's injury facts publication, Utah is tied with four other states at 34th with 1.2 deaths per 100,000 vehicle miles traveled, Parenti said.

"We're high in that," he said.

Parenti said he believes not driving distracted — no cell phones or texting — and keeping your eyes on the road are the most essential safety practices to which drivers can adhere.

Allstate agrees.

"We think Salt Lake City drivers can continue to improve their ranking by focusing on positive changes to their driving habits, including reducing distracted driving and allowing more time for travel to reduce speeding," said Denis Bailey, field vice president for Allstate's southwest region.

"Human error is the biggest cause of accidents," Bailey said. "It is vital for us to educate drivers across the country on the importance of being tolerant and attentive behind the wheel."

Staying safe behind the wheel

Minimize distractions: Any other activity while driving — talking on your cell phone, text messaging, changing a radio station, putting on makeup — is a distraction.

Be aware of road conditions: Ice, snow, fog and rain require extra caution and slower speeds.

Keep a safe distance: Maintain at least one car length space between your car and the vehicle in front of you for every 10 miles per hour of speed.

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Steer clear of road rage: Reduce stress on the road by allowing plenty of time for travel, planning your route in advance and altering your schedule or route to avoid congested roads. Don't challenge aggressive drivers and stay as far away from them as possible.

Maintenance matters: Ensure that your vehicle's brakes, exhaust system, tires, lights, battery and hoses are in good working order.

SOURCE: Allstate Insurance Co.

To see the complete report, go to www.allstate.com. To share thoughts on the city's ranking, visit www.goodhandscommunity.org.

E-MAIL: lynn@desnews.com