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Washington Drivers Crash Most of Any U.S. City

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Aug. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Washington, D.C., drivers are the most accident-prone among the largest U.S. cities, again placing at the bottom of the ranking in a report by insurer Allstate Corp.

Drivers in the nation’s capital get in a collision every 4.7 years, more than twice the rate of the average American motorist, Allstate said today in a statement. It was the fifth year in a row Washington was last in the report.

“People don’t pay attention,” Chris Charucksiri, owner of Capitol Hill Auto Services, a repair shop in the district, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “Everyone’s on their phone. It’s obnoxious.”

Allstate, the largest publicly traded U.S. auto insurer, does an annual survey using claims data to determine the likelihood of crashes in most of the nation’s 200 largest cities. The current report includes data from January 2009 through December 2010. The national rate of auto accidents has been declining for most of the past two decades as carmakers improved safety features, according to U.S. Department of Transportation data compiled by Bloomberg.

Still, drivers should be aware of the risks posed by distractions such as texting, Kate Hollcraft, a spokeswoman for the Northbrook, Illinois-based insurer, said in a phone interview.

The Transportation Department considers using a mobile phone, eating, grooming and adjusting the radio among activities that can compromise a person’s ability to operate a vehicle. Such distractions contributed to about a fifth of car crashes in 2010 that involved an injury, the department said.

Safe Habits

“The layout of a city, its transportation network, traffic signs, lights, law enforcement, all those things impact how safe a city is,” Hollcraft said. “Regardless of where you live, there are definitely safe driving habits, like minimizing distractions.”

Allstate’s auto policies make up about 10 percent of the U.S. market, according to the statement. The findings released today excluded cities in Massachusetts, where Allstate began selling auto coverage in late 2009, according to Hollcraft. The national average for the period between collisions is about 10 years, she said.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, drivers had the lowest frequency of accidents, going an average of 13.8 years between collisions. It’s the fifth time in the eight years Allstate has issued the report that Sioux Falls has been called the “safest driving city.”

New York, the most populous U.S. city, ranked 176th, with drivers crashing about every seven years.

Phoenix and San Diego fared the best of cities with a population of more than 1 million. Baltimore was second-worst behind Washington, with crashes every 5.3 years.

To contact the reporter on this story: Noah Buhayar in New York at nbuhayar@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Kraut at dkraut2@bloomberg.net

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