Which cities' drivers strike fear in the hearts of visitors? In a new survey, Travel + Leisure readers lived to tell.
Wendy Peck once spent a year driving 30,000 miles around North America. "I'm a confident driver," says the Canadian meeting planner, "always have been."
Until, that is, she spent a winter driving in and out of Phoenix.
"It's not just that people speed," she says, "but they roar up behind you in the lane, and have to slam on their brakes when you don't magically disappear from their path." The irony, she added, is that the city itself is easy to navigate. "It's 100 percent the drivers that scare me to death."
That kind of suspense helped Phoenix plow into the top 10 of America's Worst Drivers -- a new category in the annual America's Favorite Cities survey. Travel + Leisure readers evaluate 35 cities, voting in categories such as shopping, cuisine, and driving ability. The nation's best drivers, according to readers, are tooling around Kansas City, KS, Portland, ME and Savannah, GA.
And the worst drivers? They hail from cities known for traffic and, shall we say, lively locals. Simon Tam, a musician who tours with the band the Slants, recalls driving though Little Italy in New York City.
"A large delivery truck once drove onto the sidewalk just to pass me," he says. "In the process, he took off my side mirror--and then flipped me off."
Granted, some bad reputations stem from unfair perceptions. According to the Allstate Insurance Best Drivers Report, Phoenix residents average about 10 years between accidents while local drivers in Washington, D.C. average only five years between incidents. And some cities that ranked as the worst for driving ability are filled with tourists who don't know their way around. That may explain Orlando's poor standing. (You try finding your exit with a car full of kids riding a sugar high).
Density and growing traffic can also take their toll on otherwise easygoing locals. Austin, TX, for instance, made the Worst list, despite also ranking well in the survey for friendliness.
"You just can't predict what they're going to do," says Jason Jepson, an entrepreneur who moved to the Texas capital last year. "They'll gun it on a yellow, or swerve left to make a right-hand turn--and if you don't have a huge truck, you'll just get run over."
Yet there's a twist: "Drivers here are super nice to people on bikes," says Jepson. "I feel much safer on my ten-speed than I do in my car."
--Katrina Brown Hunt
Spending too much time checking their hair in the rearview mirror? These Floridians ranked near the top for their good looks, fashion savvy, and cocktail scene. But all that eye candy can get distracting. Locals didn’t impress voters with their street smarts: Miami ranked as the city with the worst drivers. Photo: iShootPhotos, LLC See more of America’s Worst Drivers
In this famously sprawling city, driving is essential. But that doesn’t mean local drivers impressed our readers with their skills at the wheel. Maybe it’s a case of slow reflexes. Atlanta locals also ranked as some of the least athletic. And their driving may contribute to the city’s unsettling ranking for safety. Photo: iStock See more of America’s Worst Drivers
Driving is nearly a contact sport in the Big Apple; most visitors would rather buckle into the backseat and let the cabbies fight it out. Many locals don’t drive regularly, which may contribute to their poor ranking here. When the traffic gets too intimidating, pull over for a snack: New York City ranked fifth for its beloved street food. Photo: iStock See more of America’s Worst Drivers
Beantown’s drivers are primed to ace their written driving tests—they rank third in the survey for smarts—but they don’t play nice on the road, landing in the bottom five for friendliness. For a more relaxing holiday, park your car and stroll on the pedestrian-friendly sidewalks. Photo: Sarah Lemoncelli See more of America’s Worst Drivers
Perhaps drivers in the Big D are suffering from heat exhaustion and low blood sugar: according to the survey, they have to endure the nation’s worst weather, disappointing dining, and the country’s lamest coffee. Once you get off the clogged highways, at least, you might be able to kick back. Downtown Fort Worth is particularly pedestrian-friendly. Photo: iStock See more of America’s Worst Drivers
You might find it less frustrating to drive a teacup at the Magic Kingdom. Orlando locals aren’t terribly accident-prone, according to another study, so the erratic driving here may be the fault of all the disoriented tourists, whose nerves are frazzled by kids yelling, “Are we there yet?” from the backseat. No surprise, Orlando still took the top prize for family getaways. Photo: Ian Dagnall / Alamy See the rest of America’s Worst Drivers
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