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Published: Thursday, 7/9/2009

Toledo drivers rated highly in survey

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Driving instructor Beverly Ricciardo knows a thing or two about being behind the wheel, so when she says Ohio has pretty good drivers, she knows what she's talking about.

"I'd drive with Ohioans before I'd drive with anyone else. Our drivers rank pretty high, I'd say," said Ms. Ricciardo, an instructor of nine years at the Toledo Driving Schools.

Her assessment seems to be pretty good.

Yesterday, auto insurer Allstate Corp. released its fifth annual list of the 200 largest cities nationwide with the best drivers, and Ohio drivers made a strong showing. Of the six Ohio cities on the list, all were in the top 90.

Toledo finished 68th - a drop of seven spots from last year's ranking. According to Allstate, drivers in Toledo had a 2.6 percent chance of an accident above the national average, and they go about 9.7 years between collisions.

Allstate based the rankings on its own accident claim data from the 200 cities. It looked at a two-year average to determine its rankings.

Dayton, at No. 12, was the city with the best ranking in Ohio. It was followed by Akron, No. 18; Cleveland, 29; Cincinnati, 62; Toledo; and Columbus, 87.

Traffic accident statistics from the Ohio Department of Public Safety show a similar ranking. In 2008, there were 3,970 accidents in Dayton, 6,898 in Akron, 10,437 in Toledo, 13,927 in Cleveland, 15,335 in Cincinnati, and 24,054 in Columbus.

Every Ohio city on the top 200 list finished above any city in

Michigan. The highest-ranked city in Michigan was Grand Rapids, at 91st. Detroit was 121st.

While Toledo had a slight setback, the city's rankings in general have been improving since 2005, when Allstate began its study. Toledo ranked 87th in 2005, 79th in 2006, 75th in 2007, and 61st last year.

Karen Spica, an Allstate spokesman, said that, as the nation's No. 2 auto insurer, Allstate has a lot of accident data.

However, that doesn't mean that the drivers in one city are worse than another. Speed limits, weather, and a number of factors contribute to accident numbers, she said.

For example, one might conclude that drivers in Dayton, which moved up to 12th this year from 13th a year ago, have gotten even safer.

But Mary Bonelli, a spokesman for the Ohio Insurance Institute, said the economy could be a factor.

Dayton has been hard-hit by business closings and job loss, she said. "Part of this ranking might be economic. With an economic downturn, people drive less," she said.

Still, Mike Moscinski, vice president of Trainco Truck Driving School in Oregon, said he drives regularly in Ohio's biggest cities and the Detroit area and has no doubt that Toledo drivers are among the best.

"Northwest Ohio drivers, in general, are very courteous people. You're going to get a bad apple occasionally, but compared to Michigan, they're very good and Toledo probably deserves its ranking," he said.

"From my standpoint, the state of Ohio is very conscientious when it comes to driver training and driver testing," Mr. Moscinski said.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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