Highway safety • Drivers in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Boise, Idaho, ranked tops for safe driving.
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Salt Lake City drivers are still a bit worse than average, but swerved and corrected their way back to drastic improvement during the past year.
They are now ranked as 72nd best among the nation's 200 largest cities, up from No. 98 last year, according to the annual Allstate America's Best Drivers Report released on Tuesday.
Still, compared to the national average, Salt Lake area drivers are 1.5 percent more likely to be in an auto collision.
The study of insurance accident claims says Salt Lake drivers are in an accident about once every 9.9 years, compared to the national average of once every 10 years.
That is a significant improvement from the 2011 report, which said Salt Lake drivers were in accidents about once every 9.3 years.
The improvement "may be indicative that people in Salt Lake, and Utah in general, have increased awareness about the most critical unsafe driving practices," said Robert Hull, director of traffic and safety for the Utah Department of Transportation.
For example, he said the state's Zero Fatalities program has used ads and law enforcement campaigns to remind drivers about the dangers of not using seat belts, aggressive driving, drowsy driving, distracted driving (from such things as texting), and impaired driving.
Also, he said the state has worked hard to improve safety in its design and construction of highways.
"All those things together help drive down our accident numbers and improve our rankings in this report," he said.
Allstate said encouraging such safe-driving discussions is why it releases the report.
"We don't want drivers in Salt Lake City to be discouraged by their ranking. Instead, we want the report to challenge drivers in Salt Lake City to make positive changes," said Steve Gray, owner of a Salt Lake City Allstate agency. "Minimizing distractions, obeying traffic laws, and using your car's safety features like turn signals and headlights are all ways to be safer."
The report said the safest drivers in America, among its largest 200 cities, live in Sioux Falls, S.D. They are in accidents about once every 13.8 years. Boise, Idaho, was just slightly behind at No. 2, with motorists in a crash every 13.8 years. Fort Collins, Colo., was No. 3 at once every 13.6 years.
At the other end of the spectrum, drivers in Washington, D.C., ranked worst, being in an accident once every 4.7 years. Next worst was Baltimore, Md., at once every 5.3 years. Third-worst was Providence, R.I., at once every 5.5 years.
SLC drivers finally showing improvement
Between 2005 and 2010, Salt Lake drivers continually fell in annual rankings on safety from No. 64 to Nos. 77, 82, 83, 99 and 102.
They reversed the trend to improve to No. 98 in 2011, and jumped dramatically to No. 72 this year.