Road trip ruts: Top 10 cities for crashes, traffic jams and costly fuel

By , Posted on 30 May 2013

top cities for trafficRoad trip! It's a rebel yell for those who think some of the best journeys are all about loading up the car and steering to the nearest interstate.

But there are always things to consider besides midday snacks and whether to leave the car-sick dog behind. What about the crash rate at your target destination, especially if it's one of our bigger cities and a favorite vacation spot? And are traffic snarls there a pain in the driver's seat, which could threaten to turn road bliss into road blahs?

With those headaches in mind, Erie Insurance has ranked 10 of the most popular cities by accident risk, traffic congestion and gas prices. The Pennsylvania-based insurer, which based its results on auto insurance accident claims and federal, state and local driving statistics, found that Washington, D.C. was the worst when it came to the chance of smashing into another car. The nation's capital also has the most highway congestion.

"You want memories to be of amazing sights you saw, meals you ate or things you did, not of looking for a body shop to fix your car or missing out on an excursion because you were stuck in traffic," Cody Cook, Erie's vice president and product manager, says in a statement.

Here are the daily collision rates for the top 10 cities, which Erie says were gleaned from crash claim figures at the Highway Loss Data Institute:

  1. Washington, D.C., with an average of 7.77 daily accident claims per 100,000 motorists. That works out to 45 percent more than the other cities on the list.

  2. Virginia Beach (6.76 per 100,000, 27 percent more)

  3. Philadelphia (6.17 per 100,000, 16 percent more)

  4. Chicago (5.33 per 100,000, or about average compared to the other cities)

  5. San Antonio (5.07 per 100,000, 5 percent less)

  6. Orlando (4.62 per 100,000, 13 percent less)

  7. Seattle (4.59 per 100,000, 14 percent less)

  8. Nashville (4.39 per 100,000, 17 percent less)

  9. New York (4.37 per 100,000, 18 percent less)

  10. Las Vegas (4.05 per 100,000, 24 percent less)

Need a decongestant?

The bumper-to-bumper factor? Erie Insurance looked at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute's Annual Urban Mobility Report, which shows the average time a commuter is stuck in traffic each year. Here's the ranking for traffic congestion, according to Erie:

  1. Washington, D.C., where commuters spent an average of 67 hours annually behind-the-wheel. That's about 37 percent more than the other listed cities.

  2. New York (59 hours a year, 20 percent more)

  3. Chicago (51 hours, 5 percent more)

  4. Philadelphia (48 hours, 2 percent more)

  5. Seattle (also 48 hours, 2 percent more)

  6. Nashville (47 hours, or about 5 percent less compared to the other cities)

  7. Orlando (45 hours, 8 percent less)

  8. Las Vegas (44 hours, 10 percent less)

  9. Virginia Beach (43 hours, 12 percent less)

  10. San Antonio (38 hours, 22 percent less)

Feeling gassy?

What about fuel prices? Erie gathered recent figures at to complete the rankings:

  1. Chicago, with an average of $4.30 per gallon as of May 20. That's about 18.6 percent more than the other listed cities.

  2. Seattle ($4.03 per gallon, 11 percent more)

  3. New York ($3.80 per gallon, 4.6 percent more)

  4. Washington, D.C. ($3.73 per gallon, 2.8 percent more)

  5. Philadelphia ($3.55 per gallon, 2.3 percent less compared to the other cities)

  6. Las Vegas ($3.46 per gallon, 4.6 percent less)

  7. Virginia Beach ($3.394 per gallon, 6.47 percent less)

  8. Orlando ($3.391 per gallon, 6.55 percent less)

  9. San Antonio ($3.37 per gallon, 7 percent less)

  10. Nashville ($3.27 per gallon, 10 percent less)

Road trip nation

Despite the chances of getting into a wreck, being stuck in gridlock or paying high prices at the pump, Americans' highway infatuation appears to be strong. A USA Today/Gallup Poll points out that three out of four surveyed say they'll take a trip this summer, most within the country's borders. Many told pollsters they'll travel at least 100 miles from home, with road trips to the beach, national parks and popular cities high on the agenda.

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Des Toups

Des Toups

Managing editor

Des Toups is a writer, editor and expert on insurance, cars and personal finance. He has written extensively about all three for national publications such as MSN and major newspapers such as the Seattle Times. He has been quoted about insurance issues in The New York Times, USA Today and Kiplinger's.


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