Driving In The Danger Zone
by Allen Worrell
I don’t know about you, but I love lists. I don’t care if it’s the best music, the best hotdogs, the best places to visit, the best weasel products (garden weasel, nose weasel, toilet weasel, etc.), I love to read them whether I agree or disagree. After perusing such a list, I may say, well done, old chap,” or “My good sir, you are dumber than a bag of hammers.” Okay, I don’t really talk like that. I’m usually more demonstrative, sometimes coarse, vulgar and profane, which draws disapproving looks from my wife, henceforth known as the Mistress of the Manor.
Anyway, back to the lists. The first one that caught my eye as I scourged the internet (and we all know how painful that can be) was a list of the “Most Dangerous States to Drive In.” Now, I try to be a courteous driver, really, I do (the Mistress of the Manor is smirking), but I must admit that my anger at drivers who I feel would be better off behind the reins of a hay wagon sometimes gets the best of me. I worked in North Carolina for 23 years, covering a lot of terrain during that time, so I know the caliber of the motorists there, and felt sure our neighbors to the south would at least make the Top 10. The most annoying, and frightening, tactic employed by Tarheel drivers is the “No, I’m not going, yes I am, but at the last second.” Drivers will sit at a stop sign and watch as you approach from a mile away. Only when you get a couple of feet from them will they decide to ease out into traffic, creating fear, anxiety, heart attacks and the occasional wet seat. But did North Carolina make the list. No sireee. That means the 10 that made the list are really a treat.
Six of the Top 10 states are southern states, begging the question “What in the name of Henry Ford” is wrong with us. I mean I’ve been driving 46 years, and have accumulated 10 or so tickets, but never, I repeat never, caused an accident, at least while the car was moving. While I’m amazed, and very chagrined, to find out my southern brethren apparently have the driving skills of a half-blind Panda, I was even more surprised by two other entries – No.2 Montana and No. 4 Wyoming.
Since those are two of our largest states size-wise, and have a combined population of somewhere around 136 people (I’m pretty sure that’s accurate), I’m puzzled by the high death toll. I mean, there are more rabid prairie dogs in those states than people. While Mississippi averages 26.7 auto fatalities per 1,000 people to earn the top spot on the list, Montana racked up 23.3 and Wyoming 21.7. Apparently, these people have not transitioned well from the horse to the automobile.
The comments accompanying the list said Montana’s “problem may be due in part to drunk driving.” Duuuh. Possibly, more horse paths are the answer, or maybe just keeping the firewater away from the guys who have been trampled by bulls and horses one too many times. You’ve got about the same chance of surviving a trip through Montana as Gen. George Armstrong Custer and his men had surviving the Sioux. While Montana is a puzzler, Wyoming is a Rubik’s Cube of wonder. It is huge and has the smallest population of any state in our great country; yet, drivers there manage to kill off themselves and unsuspecting visitors at an alarming rate. What gives? Well, I’ll tell you. The fact that Yellowstone National Park is a giant, inactive volcano that could erupt any time and bury half the U.S.A. in volcanic ash has led the state’s drivers to adopt a cavalier attitude towards road safety. The state’s motto is “Forever West.” What state authorities don’t tell outsiders is that the forever part might mean death at the hands of a liquored-up wrangler.
And let’s not forget Oklahoma, which comes in at the No. 9 spot. In 1974, I had the pleasure … wait, that’s not the word … the seemingly unending torment … yea, that’s got it … to drive the width of the Sooner state. I didn’t have to turn the wheel once. It’s a straight shot. You could strap a comatose aardvark to the wheel, put a brick on the gas pedal, and that armored maniac would make it to Arkansas (No.5 on the hit list) before crashing into a nursing home.
The other four southern states noted for their ability to produce traffic deaths are third-ranked Alabama, No. 6 South Carolina and No. 10 Kentucky. None of the three require booster seats for children under eight, and South Carolina and Kentucky have no motorcycle helmet laws. So, we have kids and guys undergoing mid-life crisises bouncing down the pavement, while moonshiners take pot shots at them. Fun for the whole family.
The remaining non-south or crazy-cowboy state on the list is West Virginia. Need I say anything here? I shouldn’t because I have a friends and family from the Mountaineer state. However, I can’t help myself. It’s hard to drive when you have just one large eye, three ears, and a prehensile tail. Now that I’ve endeared myself to the people of West Virginia and probably set myself up for a Hatfield/McCoy-type shooting, I’ll move on.
I offer this list as a public safety message for all those of you who are planning to travel this summer. If you want to vacation in the Northeast, you’re good to go. If the Midwest, West, Southwest, or even the water-logged Northwest (rethink that one) is your destination, pack up and leave. However, if you have the intention of visiting Georgia or Florida, and the trip doesn’t include a boat ride, well then, you’re on your own, because you can’t get there from here without risking life and limb by traveling through the above mentioned death states. As for me and the Mistress of the Manor, we’ve already decided not to venture any farther than the “Little Rivera” at Jot’em Down.
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