How Do We Measure A Concept Like Safety

Topic Tag | General

How Do We Measure A Concept Like Safety?

When you think about what makes a place safe to drive, what comes to mind? Is it the quality of the roads, the weather patterns, the infrastructure? Is it strict driving laws, low speed limits, or crime incident rates? Are there states that you immediately think of when you hear about good or bad drivers?
WalletHub recently shared a study on the best and worst states to drive in, assessing 23 key indicators across states, including average gas prices, road quality, and rush-hour traffic. These indicators fell into four general dimensions of study: 1) Cost of Ownership and Maintenance, 2) Traffic and Infrastructure, 3) Safety and 4) Access to Vehicles and Maintenance. The results were fascinating and we’ve included some of the comparisons below.

But one of the most interesting aspects of the study was the methodology- how the researchers assessed and weighted the data. Of particular interest to us at Drivemode was “safety” as a metric by which to determine the best and worst driving states. How do we determine what makes a state most safe to drive in? WalletHub shared the following indicators of safety for driving.

  • Traffic Indiscipline, a composite metric that measures incidents due to poor behavior including phone use, speeding, aggressive acceleration, harsh braking, and poor turning.
  • Traffic Fatality Rate
  • Car Theft Rate
  • Larceny Rate
  • Strictness of DUI Punishment
  • Strictness of High-Risk Driving based on insurance premium penalties
  • Driving-Laws Rating

Using these metrics, the states that ranked the worst were:

  1. New Mexico
  2. Montana
  3. South Carolina
  4. Missouri
  5. Alabama

The top ranked states for safety were (and these surprised some of us):

  1. New York
  2. Rhode Island
  3. Connecticut
  4. Massachusetts
  5. Illinois

These metrics for safety are all very helpful for assessment. It would also be very interesting to see some of the other indicators weighted in with Safety, in particular, those that were included in the category for “Traffic and Infrastructure.” For example:

  • Number of Days with Precipitation
  • Number of Icy Days, the mean number of days with a minimum temperature of 32 degrees F or lower.
  • Road Quality
  • Bridge Quality

Other safety indicators not included in the study, but perhaps worth considering could be:

  • Average length of Drivers License ownership
  • Average or highest highway speeds
  • Average age of vehicles

All of these data points show how a concept like “safety” can be layered and matrixed, especially as we try to quantify it, study it, and act upon determinations resulting from it. All of these different aspects that impact driver safety can inform legislature, resource allocation, emergency response, driver assistance programs, and much more. We have a responsibility to keep studying driver behavior, both in isolation and within larger paradigms, in the rear view and toward the horizon, as we work together to make the roads safer for everyone.