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Insurer's report ranks Phoenix top city for safe drivers

For the ninth year in a row, the Allstate America's Best Drivers Report named Phoenix the safest city with more than 1 million residents in terms of car crashes. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Chris Cole)

PHOENIX - Anyone who's been tailgated, cut off or rear-ended while driving on the streets and freeways here may be surprised to learn that Phoenix drivers rank as the safest around.

For the ninth year in a row, the Allstate America's Best Drivers Report named Phoenix the safest city with more than 1 million residents in terms of car crashes.

"I think it's a very neat accomplishment," said Chelci Vaughan, a Tempe-based Allstate spokeswoman. "Phoenix drivers should pat themselves on the back, for sure."

Tucson and Mesa also ranked as the top cities in their respective population sizes in Allstate's report.

Allstate determined that the average Phoenix driver will experience an auto collision every 9.8 years, which means drivers only slightly more likely to get into a car crash than the national average of 10 years.

Phoenix resident Jesse Ferrell was surprised to hear the news.

"I've lived here 17 years, so I see how people drive," Ferrell said. "They drive like race car drivers."

Jonna McMaham felt the same way.

"We just have a lot of traffic," McMaham said. "That's usually where you see the majority of accidents."

Allstate found that most auto claims occur at speeds of 35 mph or less. The fact that Phoenix sits in the top spot in spite of that means that congested traffic isn't as much of an issue as residents may think, Vaughan said.

"Our roads flow a little better," she added.

Alberto Gutier, director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, credited Phoenix's grid system and the frequency of stoplights along the streets.

"When you have a grid system on major streets, it makes a safer city because people know where they're going," Gutier said. "Lights are synchronized, traffic moves and people know what to expect."

In addition to the city's infrastructure, mild weather and an older population that drives shorter distances at slower speeds contributed to Phoenix's ranking, said Brad Oltmans, vice president of insurance and financial services for AAA Arizona.

"We don't have frozen, wet or snowy roads, with the exception of haboobs," Oltmans said. "You just don't have a lot of those other issues."

Joe Zahara, owner of Stop and Go Driving School in Phoenix, said the report is surprising because he notices more people swerving on the roads and causing crashes while texting.

"When I instruct students, I see a crash once a day if not multiple times," Zahara said. "There's so much aggressive driving out on the road."

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