The Best and Worst Drivers Among 25 Major Cities

Shocked female driver
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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on The Zebra.

What makes someone a good or bad driver? It depends. There are a number of ways to look at driving ability. Skill is important — a person’s ability to parallel park; navigate around obstacles; handle busy highways; and maneuver through ice, snow and rain. But safety is also critical — attentiveness, patience and caution, quick reflexes and following the rules of the road.

To get a clearer picture of America’s drivers and their skills, we surveyed more than 100 drivers in each of 25 major cities — 2,605 people in all — and asked about their driving. Here’s what we learned:

  • Overall, American drivers rated themselves highly in both areas (skill and safety).
  • On a five-star scale, respondents gave themselves 4.1 stars for skill and 4.3 for safety, on average.
  • They rated themselves four-star drivers or better when it came to driving on busy highways (4.3 out of 5), navigating traffic in the rain (4.2) and making three-point turns (4.1).
  • The self-assessed ratings dropped slightly for driving in ice and snow (3.7 out of 5) and parallel parking (3.5).

How does this self-assessment stack up against the national traffic safety picture? Can it really be true that most Americans are above-average drivers? There is some speculation that drivers tend to overestimate their skill on the road, which gives us reason to look at other statistics.

Only 32% of Americans have never been in a car accident, which means that more than two-thirds of drivers have filed an accident report at least once. About half of those wrecks resulted in minor vehicle damage, although a comparable number saw major property or vehicular damage.

Following is a closer look at American driving skills, including the cities with the best and worst drivers. Our methodology is at the end.

How Americans rate themselves as drivers

Happy driver
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So, which Americans consider themselves five-star drivers? And how do those numbers break down by geography, gender and generation?

A lot of drivers consider themselves exemplary in Miami-Fort Lauderdale, as nearly 52% rated themselves five stars for safety and 43.3% gave themselves five stars for skill. Only Big Easy drivers topped them in the skill category, with 43.8% of New Orleans motorists registering a five-star self-rating. Close behind in safety were Atlantans, of whom 51.8% gave themselves five stars for safe driving.

The breakdown along gender lines was closely split in the safety category, with 46% of men and 43.6% of women giving themselves five stars for driving safely. In the skill category, though, 40.8% of men rated themselves five-star drivers, while only 28.6% of women shared the same opinion of their skills behind the wheel.

In every generation, at least 40% of all drivers gave themselves five stars for safety, which might put some minds at ease. With their decades of experience behind the wheel, baby boomers proved the most confident of all the generations surveyed. Nearly 60% gave themselves five stars for safety, and 43.4% five stars for skill, outpacing the generations that follow. Only 26.1% of Generation Z members believe they have five-star road skills.

How drivers feel about their automotive skills

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Different places have different traffic and road conditions, testing the skills of local drivers in specific ways. We asked survey respondents to rate their comfort with specific driving skills.

In a country knitted together by a massive national highway system, it makes sense that nearly half of Americans (49.7%) consider themselves five-star experts at driving on busy, multi-lane highways. It also came as no surprise that among cities comfortable with driving on those highways, Los Angeles drivers topped the list.

Naturally, inhabitants of the biggest cities with the toughest parking scene were those who rated themselves best at three-point turns, led by Washington, D.C., followed by Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Although it’s a necessary skill in many places, fewer than 28% of drivers gave themselves five stars for their parallel parking abilities. Drivers in impossible-to-find-a-spot cities like New York, L.A. and D.C. said they were best at parallel parking.

And fewer Americans feel confident driving in rough weather, with only 29.2% giving themselves five stars for ice and snow driving. Winter-heavy Chicago and Indianapolis shared the top three in rain, ice and snow categories, with New York and D.C. joining the hard-weather drivers.

Who knows how to do what with their vehicles?

Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com

Because driving skill is also marked by the ability to handle unexpected or unfamiliar conditions, we asked respondents about their comfort level with two situations: driving a vehicle with a stick shift and changing a flat tire.

Denver drivers fared best with manual transmissions, as 67.6% said they knew how to drive stick shifts (likely helped by the need for four-wheel-drive vehicles in snowy Colorado). Seattle and Dallas drivers were next in line, at 60.6% and 58.6%, respectively. At the other end of the scale, Motor City drivers were least comfortable with a gear shift: Only 33% of Detroit drivers said they could drive a car with a manual transmission.

As for changing a flat tire, a whopping 77.5% of Hoosier drivers say they know how, at least in the state capital of Indianapolis. Just behind are New Orleans with 75.3% and Washington, D.C., where 74.5% of folks confident they are capable of changing a flat. Bostonians are most likely to have to call for help if they get one, as only 50.5% can change a tire themselves.

An equal number of men and women, 57% each, say they can drive a stick shift. The numbers are considerably more skewed for tire-changing, though: While 82.2% of men say they know how to change a flat, only 49.4% of women report being able to do so.

Comfort with these skills varies widely by generation — and, predictably, that comfort grows with experience. Almost 75% of baby boomers can drive a stick shift, and 70.6% of them can change a tire. At the younger end of the timeline, only 19% of Gen Z’ers can drive a stick, while 46.7% of them can change a tire. Interestingly, the percentages of stick-shift drivers jump by roughly 20 percentage points for each generation.

National averages

A man studies financial data at his computer
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We broke down 2,605 survey responses to form a cohesive picture of America’s drivers and how they rate their skills. Here are the overall numbers:

  • How skillful of a driver do you consider yourself? 4.1 out of 5
  • How safe a driver do you consider yourself? 4.3 out of 5
  • How good are you at driving on busy, multi-lane highways? 4.3 out of 5
  • How good are you at driving in rain? 4.2 out of 5
  • How good are you at three-point turns? 4.1 out of 5
  • How good are you at driving in ice and snow? 3.7 out of 5
  • How good are you at parallel parking? 3.5 out of 5
  • Do you know how to drive a stick shift? 47.3% yes
  • Do you know how to change a flat tire? 65.7% yes

Common experiences for American drivers

hedgehog94 / Shutterstock.com

In the study, 32% of American drivers reported never having been in a car accident.

Among those who had, the most common experiences were:

  • Minor damage to car: 49.9%
  • Car totaled: 21.6%
  • Major damage to car: 20.4%
  • Minor damage to property (i.e., a mailbox): 7.4%
  • Minor injuries to pedestrian, passenger or driver: 7.3%
  • Major damage to property: 3.4%
  • Serious injuries to pedestrian, passenger or driver: 2.5%
  • Death of pedestrian, passenger or driver: 0.6%

Atlanta, GA

Atlanta, Georgia
f11 photo / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.13 (City rank: 13th out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.42 (City rank: first out of 25 )

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 46.9%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 29.7%
  • Can’t parallel park: 25.2%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.24 (City rank: tie for 11th out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 30.6% (City rank: 15th out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 25.2% (City rank: eighth out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Gave themselves the highest average score for driving safely
  • Second-highest number of people giving themselves 5 out of 5 stars for safety

Baltimore, MD

Port of Baltimore, Maryland tugboat
Cascade Creatives / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.21 (City rank: sixth out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.35 (City rank: tie for third out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 56.0%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 35.8%
  • Can’t parallel park: 22.9%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.09 (City rank: tie for 18th out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 28.4% (City rank: tie for 18th out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 24.8% (City rank: tie for ninth out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Second-best at navigating busy, multi-lane highways

Boston, MA

Boston
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On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.04 (City rank: tie for 23rd out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.19 (City rank: 22nd out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 55.8%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 49.5%
  • Can’t parallel park: 27.4%

Average number of citations per resident: 0.97 (City rank: 24th out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 31.9% (City rank: 12th out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 14.9% (City rank: 21st out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Fewest residents who can change a flat tire (50.5%)
  • Second-lowest number of traffic citations per resident

Charlotte, NC

Charlotte North Carolina
Kevin Ruck / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.04 (City rank: tie for 23rd out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.24 (City rank: 17th out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 54.8%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 35.6%
  • Can’t parallel park: 29.8%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.02 (City rank: tie for 20th out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 27.9% (City rank: 20th out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 26.9% (City rank: sixth out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Rated themselves second-lowest for driving skill

Chicago, IL

Chicago, Illinois
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.09 (City rank: 18th out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.2 (City rank: 21st out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 63.6%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 41.1%
  • Can’t parallel park: 20.6%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.38 (City rank: fifth out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 33.0% (City rank: 10th out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 28.3% (City rank: fifth out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Best at driving in ice and snow, and second-best at driving in rain.

Cleveland-Akron, OH

Cleveland, Ohio
Rudy Balasko / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.06 (City rank: 22nd out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.25 (City rank: tie for 15th out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 66.3%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 47.5%
  • Can’t parallel park: 32.7%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.09 (City rank: tie for 18th out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 31.7% (City rank: 13th out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 16.8% (City rank: 18th out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Second-largest percentage who can’t drive a stick shift (66.3%)
  • Second-largest share of drivers who can’t change a flat tire (47.5%)
  • Second-highest percentage of drivers who can’t parallel park (32.7%)

Dallas-Fort Worth, TX

Aneese / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.20 (City rank: seventh out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.32 (City rank: tie for seventh out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 41.4%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 26.3%
  • Can’t parallel park: 30.3%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.28 (City rank: tie for seventh out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 25.3% (City rank: 24th out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 20.2% (City rank: tie for 15th out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Second-lowest share of drivers with clean records — only 25.3% have never had a traffic citation.
  • Third-highest percentage of residents who can drive a stick shift (58.6%)

Denver, CO

Denver, Colorado
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.16 (City rank: tie for ninth out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.29 (City rank: tie for 10th-13th out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 32.1%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 26.6%
  • Can’t parallel park: 22.0%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.28 (City rank: tie for seventh out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 32.1% (City rank: 11th out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 22.9% (City rank: 12th out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Highest percentage of motorists who can drive a stick shift — more than two-thirds can (67.9%).

Detroit, MI

Detroit, Michigan
Harold Stiver / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.16 (City rank: tie for ninth out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.22 (City rank: tie for 18th out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 67.0%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 31.2%
  • Can’t parallel park: 29.4%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.28 (City rank: tie for seventh out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 28.4% (City rank: tie for 18th out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 25.7% (City rank: seventh out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Fewest 5-star safety scores
  • Fewest motorists who can drive a stick shift (33%)

Houston, TX

Houston, Texas skyline
Silvio Ligutti / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.10 (City rank: tie for 16th out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.32 (City rank: tie for seventh out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 53.9%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 30.4%
  • Can’t parallel park: 23.5%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.39 (City rank: fourth out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 33.3% (City rank: ninth out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 20.6% (City rank: 14th out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Highest percentage of residents who have been in an accident resulting in serious injuries to a pedestrian, passenger or driver (6.9%)

Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.24 (City rank: tie for third out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.35 (City rank: tie for third out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 51.0%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 22.6%
  • Can’t parallel park: 25.5%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.16 (City rank: 15th out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 27.5% (City rank: 21st out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 35.3% (City rank: first out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Highest percentage of drivers who can change a flat tire (77.4%)
  • Highest percentage of drivers who have totaled a car (35.3%)
  • Top three for driving in ice and snow, and in rain

Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas by night, with mountains
egd / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.10 (City rank: tie for 16th out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.33 (City rank: sixth out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 51.1%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 42.2%
  • Can’t parallel park: 40.0%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.02 (City rank: tie for 20th out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 44.4% (City rank: first out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 16.7% (City rank: 19th out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Highest percentage of drivers (40%) who cannot parallel park

Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles
ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.12 (City rank: 14th out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.29 (City rank: tie for 10th out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 42.1%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 34.7%
  • Can’t parallel park: 9.5%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.46 (City rank: second out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 38.9% (City rank: tie for third out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 28.4% (City rank: fourth out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Best at busy, multi-lane highway driving and parallel parking
  • Second-best at three-point turns
  • Second-most traffic citations per resident

Miami-Fort Lauderdale, FL

Miami, Florida
littleny / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.24 (City rank: tie for third out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.38 (City rank: second out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 57.3%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 39.4%
  • Can’t parallel park: 27.9%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.17 (City rank: 14th out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 38.5% (City rank: tie for fifth out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 13.5% (City rank: 23rd out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Very confident. Self-rated with the most 5-star safety drivers and second-most 5-star skilled drivers.
  • Third-smallest percentage of drivers who’ve totaled a car (13.5%)

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

Lake Calhoun, Minneapolis
Roger Siljander / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.14 (City rank: tie for 11th out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.22 (City rank: tie for 18th out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 55.5%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 34.7%
  • Can’t parallel park: 26.7%

Average number of citations per resident: 0.99 (City rank: tie for 22nd out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 28.7% (City rank: 17th out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 24.8% (City rank: tie for ninth out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Third-fewest traffic citations per resident

Nashville, TN

Nashville Tennessee traffic
Michael Gordon / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.28 (City rank: second out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.29 (City rank: tie for 10th out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 52.5%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 33.3%
  • Can’t parallel park: 18.2%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.24 (City rank: tie for 11th out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 29.3% (City rank: 16th out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 22.2% (City rank: 13th out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Rated themselves second-highest for driving skill

New Orleans, LA

New Orleans
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.33 (City rank: first out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.25 (City rank: tie for 15th out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 52.8%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 24.7%
  • Can’t parallel park: 18.0%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.24 (City rank: tie for 11th out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 33.7% (City rank: eighth out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 20.2% (City rank: tie for 15th out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Gave themselves the highest average score for driving skill
  • Second-highest percentage of drivers who can change a flat tire (75.3%)
  • Third-best at navigating busy, multi-lane highways

New York, NY

New York City traffic
Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.11 (City rank: 15th out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.17 (City rank: 23rd out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 50.4%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 36.8%
  • Can’t parallel park: 10.3%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.54 (City rank: 1st out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 38.5% (City rank: tie for fifth out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 12.0% (City rank: 24th out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Most traffic citations per resident
  • Second-best at parallel parking
  • Second-best at driving in ice and snow
  • Second-least number of drivers who’ve ever totaled a car (12%)

Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia, downtown evening rush hour.
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.08 (City rank: tie for 19th out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.29 (City rank: tie for 10th out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 63.7%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 41.6%
  • Can’t parallel park: 20.4%

Average number of citations per resident: 0.80 (City rank: 25th out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 38.9% (City rank: tie for third out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 14.2% (City rank: 22nd out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Fewest traffic citations per resident
  • Third-largest percentage who can’t drive a stick shift (63.7%)

Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix, Arizona
Anton Foltin / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.17 (City rank: eighth out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.34 (City rank: fifth out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 43.9%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 31.6%
  • Can’t parallel park: 29.0%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.11 (City rank: 17th out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 25.4% (City rank: 23rd out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 31.6% (City rank: second out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Second-highest percentage of drivers who have totaled a car (31.6%)
  • Third-fewest share of drivers with clean records — only 25.4% have avoided getting a traffic citation.

Pittsburgh, PA

mandritoiu / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 3.89 (City rank: 25th out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.13 (City rank: 25th out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 61.2%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 37.9%
  • Can’t parallel park: 25.2%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.12 (City rank: 16th out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 34.0% (City rank: seventh out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 17.5% (City rank: 17th out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Fewest 5-star ratings for skill, second-fewest 5-star ratings for safety. Humble or honest?

San Francisco, CA

San Francisco neighborhood.
Bertl123 / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.24 (City rank: tie for third out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.28 (City rank: 14th out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 56.4%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 39.6%
  • Can’t parallel park: 12.9%

Average number of citations per resident: 0.99 (City rank: tie for 22nd out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 41.6% (City rank: second out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 6.9% (City rank: 25th out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Third-best at parallel parking
  • Fewest drivers who’ve ever totaled a car (6.9%)

Seattle-Tacoma, WA

Aerial view of roads leading into Seattle at sunset.
Punit Sharma Fotography / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.08 (City rank: tie for 19th out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.22 (City rank: tie for 18th out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 39.4%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 30.8%
  • Can’t parallel park: 29.8%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.27 (City rank: 10th out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 26.9% (City rank: 22nd out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 24.0% (City rank: 11th out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Second-highest percentage of residents who can drive a stick shift (60.6%)
  • Third-best at three-point turns

St. Louis, MO

MShipphoto / Shutterstock.com

On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.07 (City rank: 21st out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.14 (City rank: 24th out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 52.8%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 27.8%
  • Can’t parallel park: 21.3%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.43 (City rank: third out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 21.3% (City rank: 25th out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 30.6% (City rank: third out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Rated themselves second-lowest for driving safety
  • Third-highest number of citations per resident

Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C.
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On a scale of 1-5:

  • How skilled do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.14 (City rank: tie for 11th out of 25)
  • How safe do the city’s drivers think they are? 4.30 (City rank: ninth out of 25)

Percentage of residents who:

  • Can’t drive a stick shift: 45.9%
  • Can’t change a flat tire: 25.5%
  • Can’t parallel park: 13.3%

Average number of citations per resident: 1.36 (City rank: sixth out of 25)

Percentage who have never had a traffic citation: 31.6% (City rank: 14th out of 25)

Percentage of drivers who have totaled a car: 15.3% (City rank: 20th out of 25)

Interesting fact(s):

  • Highest percentage of chronic speeders — 45.9% of drivers “always or often” go more than 10 mph over the limit.
  • Best at three-point turns, best at driving in rain, and third-best at parallel parking.

Conclusions

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Good drivers generally know they’re good drivers because they work at it. They pay attention to the road. Their reflexes are ready. They’re patient, and they know how to share the road. Bad drivers, on the other hand, rarely notice that they’re bad drivers. And there are so many ways to be a bad driver.

So it was interesting to find that a majority of Americans consider themselves above-average drivers. Especially given that almost 9 out of 10 Americans have gotten a traffic citation, and more than two-thirds have been in at least one car accident, there seems to be some truth to the theory that most drivers overestimate their prowess behind the wheel.

But the way we relate to the road is also predictably shaped by forces like our generation and geography — which is why it’s always important to be prepared with car insurance that works for you. In the most crowded cities, drivers are best at highway navigation and parallel parking. In the ones with the harshest weather, the drivers excel at rain, snow and ice driving. And our proficiency with basic automotive skills increases as we age and gain experience.

Things are changing on the American road, though, just like everywhere else in the country — especially in terms of daily commutes, and transportation policies and options. But the love affair between Americans and automobiles has lasted for more than a century, and it’s likely to continue through the time of self-driving cars and beyond.

Methodology

Man analyzing data on a laptop
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Our survey was conducted online. It encompassed 2,605 U.S. residents who drive regularly — including at least 100 people in each of 25 major cities across the U.S. The cities were chosen based on population, media market size and geographic location.

The sample included 1,305 men and 1,300 women. They ranged in age from 18 to 78, with a median age of 34. Participants included 192 baby boomers (ages 56-74), 630 members of Generation X (ages 40-55), 1,594 millennials (ages 24-39), and 189 members of Generation Z (ages 18-23).

The survey was based on self-reporting, which can have limitations. Respondents who missed an “attention check” question were disqualified. The margin of error was ±1.92% with a confidence interval of 95% based on the population of 28.05 million adults in the target cities.

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