Driving Miss Dixie & the Consequences of Duck-Headedness

unnamed-5Once upon a time, I thought Haitians were the worst drivers in the world.  Then, on January 1, 2003, I moved to Columbia, South Carolina, and immediately came to respect the controlled chaos of Tap-Tap drivers careening about Port-au-Prince like a flash mob of alkali metals with electrons to burn.

I had never seen anything like the smash-up derby drivers of the Palmetto State.

The winter of 2003, an ice storm befell the South Carolina capital.  (As a Minnesotan by birth, I use the term ‘winter’ only in its strictest seasonal sense.)  A not-terribly-funny thing happened:  when semaphores went out across the city, drivers everywhere categorically rejected the “rule of the road” that states a disabled stoplight is transformed into a four-way stop sign.

To my stupefaction, drivers flew through intersection after intersection at the normal speed limit, somehow oblivious to the following critical thought:  “If Driver X were to approach this intersection simultaneously from a perpendicular direction as Driver Y, an emergency room visit would surely ensue.”

I vowed then and there never again to drive in this city during an ice storm.

Later that spring, I encountered another vehicular horror which unfortunately has become a driving mainstay during my decade tenure in South Carolina:  at two-way stops, drivers completely ignore the red octagon that pleads for them to STOP.  They instead blow by at the normal speed limit.  For this reason, I yield at every two-way stop even if I have the right to proceed freely.

Several days ago, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek Public Service Announcement, pleading for drivers everywhere to pull over for emergency vehicles.  Yeah, that’s a bit of a problem in South Carolina.  In ten-plus years of driving here, I have yet to see more than a handful of cars pull over for an emergency vehicle.  And when I act appropriately by doing so, a driver with a “Don’t Tread on Me” bumper sticker usually is ready to pull out his concealed weapon and threaten my existence.

I wish I was exaggerating.  Finally, I have some evidence that backs me up.

An organization called Car Insurance Comparison recently compiled and crunched data from a number of major organizations, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Motorists Association and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  The result is a National Driving Report Card.

Take a guess where South Carolina ranks?

49th.

Now guess how many of the Worst Ten Driving States host SEC football teams?

8 of 10.

Here’s the full list of Demonic Driver States, all of which fared superlatively low in the following five categories:  (1) Fatalities Rate per 100 Million Vehicle Miles Traveled; (2) Failure to Obey (Traffic Signals + Seat Belts); (3) Drunk Driving; (4) Tickets; and (5) Careless Driving:

  1. Louisiana
  2. South Carolina
  3. Mississippi
  4. Texas
  5. Alabama
  6. Florida
  7. Missouri
  8. North Carolina
  9. Montana
  10. North Dakota

At this point, you might be thinking:  what the hell does this have to do with politics?

Below is the same list of states.  The ones marked in red boldface are the ones that refused Medicaid Expansion.  Hell, here’s a second reference:

  1. Louisiana
  2. South Carolina
  3. Mississippi
  4. Texas
  5. Alabama
  6. Florida
  7. Missouri
  8. North Carolina
  9. Montana
  10. North Dakota

Yep, 8 out of 10 again.

Oh, come on.  There can’t possibly be a relationship between driving records and politics.  I don’t know; you tell me.

Here’s the same list, with the lowest high school graduation rate states marked in red:

  1. Louisiana
  2. South Carolina
  3. Mississippi
  4. Texas
  5. Alabama
  6. Florida
  7. Missouri
  8. North Carolina
  9. Montana
  10. North Dakota

See, only 5 out of 10 that time!

Another test?  How about the Top Ten States with the Highest Rates of Female Homicide, according to the Violence Policy Center:

  1. Louisiana
  2. South Carolina
  3. Mississippi
  4. Texas
  5. Alabama
  6. Florida
  7. Missouri
  8. North Carolina
  9. Montana
  10. North Dakota

Again, only 50%!  Um, wait, that’s not good, is it?

How about states that voted for McCain instead of Obama in 2008:

  1. Louisiana
  2. South Carolina
  3. Mississippi
  4. Texas
  5. Alabama
  6. Florida
  7. Missouri
  8. North Carolina
  9. Montana
  10. North Dakota

Gulp.  8 out of 10!

States that voted for Romney instead of Obama in 2012?

  1. Louisiana
  2. South Carolina
  3. Mississippi
  4. Texas
  5. Alabama
  6. Florida
  7. Missouri
  8. North Carolina
  9. Montana
  10. North Dakota

Even worse:  9 out of 10!

How about Incarceration Rate by State:

  1. Louisiana
  2. South Carolina
  3. Mississippi
  4. Texas
  5. Alabama
  6. Florida
  7. Missouri
  8. North Carolina
  9. Montana
  10. North Dakota

6 out of 10.

Folks, we could do this all day.  And I won’t even ask you to mark the states that were in the Confederacy.  (Shh.  7.  And that’s being generous with respect to Missouri.)

Here’s one final comparison.  Let’s take a peek at how voters in these Godawful Driver States vote:

8 out of the 10 states are currently led by Republican governors.  (Missouri and Montana are the only exceptions.)

How about state legislatures in these states?

1.  Louisiana (both chambers Republican majority)
2.  South Carolina (both chambers Republican majority)
3.  Mississippi (both chambers Republican majority)
4.  Texas (both chambers Republican majority)
5.  Alabama (both chambers Republican majority)

DO YOU SENSE A PATTERN YET?!

6.  Florida (both chambers Republican majority)
7. Missouri (both chambers Republican majority)
8. North Carolina (both chambers Republican majority)
9. Montana (both chambers Republican majority)
10. North Dakota (both chambers Republican majority)

At this point, if you are the least bit capable of calculating a baseball batting average or paying your monthly electric bill, you might possibly be able to derive some interesting conclusions.

Or maybe you need a reminder.  Here again are the five vehicular categories compiled by Car Insurance Comparison:

  • (1) Fatalities Rate per 100 Million Vehicle Miles Traveled;
  • (2) Failure to Obey (Traffic Signals + Seat Belts);
  • (3) Drunk Driving;
  • (4) Tickets; and
  • (5) Careless Driving:

States that can’t follow the rules… vote Republican.  States that can’t engage in critical thinking behind the wheel… vote Republican.  States that can’t judge when enough is enough… vote Republican.

Sigh.  This is as depressing as it is enlightening.  So if you don’t mind, this native Minnesotan is going to provide the flip-side hope for civilization for all of the above categories:

  • Best Driving Rank:  Minnesota is No. 4!
  • Minnesota accepted Medicaid Expansion!
  • Minnesota has the 4th highest high school graduation rate in the nation!
  • Minnesota has the 12th lowest female homicide rate.
  • Minnesota voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.
  • Minnesota has the 2nd lowest incarceration rate in the United States.
  • Minnesota’s Governor is a Democrat.
  • The entire state and U.S. legislative delegation of Minnesota is Democratic.

Oh, but the Minnesota Golden Gophers aren’t an SEC football team.  Ah, the sacrifice of civilization.

In conclusion:  if you think there’s no connection between progressive philosophy and all of the above, by all means, feel free to return to reruns of Duck Dynasty.

Arik Bjorn

Arik Bjorn lives in Columbia, South Carolina. He was the Democratic Party / Green Party fusion candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd Congressional District of South Carolina. Visit the archive for Arik’s campaign website, and check out his latest book, So I Ran for Congress. You can also follow his political activities on Twitter @Bjorn2RunSC and on Facebook. And be sure to check out more from Arik in his archives!

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  • Pipercat

    Kinda reminds (or haunts) me of ten floors on that elevator of yours!

    • The Author

      Come now, Piper, thou must remove the mask! Not many people have seen the elevator film.

      • Pipercat

        Truly, the best ham served all year!

      • The Author

        Now I’m really in a quandary, as I just dethawed last Easter’s ham for split pea soup. Get out of my head.

      • Pipercat

        One of my fav’s! Bon Apetit!!

  • JustTheFactsMa’am

    Excellent article. Too bad the people in those same states would just dismiss this argument as liberal BS. And I live in NC and have for 41 years. It’s pathetic now.

  • BigTBone

    It’s like you’re in my freaking head. Living in the upstate now but I was fortunate to grow up in the sensible, public schooled midwest. I’ve been around these rubes my whole life. They’ve refused to adapt to the changing world…

    • The Author

      Here we are, BigT! Let’s keep doing our best to make it a better place!

  • Sam Ulrich

    Let me get this straight. According to your cute little “study,” and some very loose association, conservatives can’t drive, commit murder, go to jail, don’t graduate high school, hate old people, and by the title are rednecks (and implied by Dixie racists), and Duck Dynasty fans (God forbid). What a bunch of crap. But if looking at graphs and coming up with your little schemes makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, by all means…

    • The Author

      Dear Mr. Ulrich,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      Please be assured that “my little study” was taken very seriously by dozens of media organizations (conservative, progressive and neutral) across the country. Also, it wasn’t “my” study at all; I simply ran the study across several other notable societal indicators.

      Also, nowhere in the piece did I say “conservatives” do such-and-such across the board. I think it’s fair to state that I let the facts speak mainly for themselves.

      However, it cannot be debated that the electorate of ALL Ten Worst Driving States in the nation have voted across the board for Republican lower and upper house legislatures, and that 8 of 10 of these states are led by Republican governors.

      And, for what it’s worth, all of the other statistics presented are inarguable facts.

      Where’s the “bunch of crap” and where are the “schemes”?

      Looking forward to your educated and factual retort,