Be careful out there.
Aiken ranks 13th among the “worst driving cities in South Carolina,” according to a recent study by QuoteWizard, an online insurance comparison marketplace for consumers.
“We analyze auto insurance quotes from users on our website to compare driver quality around the country,” said Adam Johnson, who is a research analyst for QuoteWizard. “For South Carolina, we took a look at the top 50 cities (in terms of population). The rankings were based on the rate of incidents, including accidents, speeding tickets and DUIs.”
The top five among the 25 cities with the highest number of incidents were Simpsonville, James Island, Goose Creek, Five Forks and Mauldin.
Charleston was No. 15.
“Typically, what we find when we look at the best and worst driving cities in each state is that the worst driving cities are right outside of a big city and right along interstate corridors,” Johnson said. “With the high rate of traffic on those busy interstate corridors, there is a higher chance for incidents to occur. But South Carolina kind of bucked that trend. Aiken is kind of off the beaten path from Interstate 20, but it does have some traffic coming down Highway 1 (from I-20) and from Augusta.”
QuoteWizard also put together a list of the 25 best driving cities in the Palmetto State, and the top five were Clemson, Port Royal, North Myrtle Beach, Sumter and Florence.
North Augusta was No. 11.
Columbia and Greenville were No. 17 and No. 25, respectively.
According to a QuoteWizard press release, “South Carolina, over the last few years, has consistently ranked among the worst driving states in our annual best and worst driver studies.”
In 2018, South Carolina was “second worst,” the release stated.
“I’m surprised we got those results,” said Josh Booth, a vice president at Security Federal Bank, of Aiken’s ranking. “If you think Aiken is bad, how about the drivers in South Florida? They are completely insane. I think people in Aiken drive pretty darn well.”
Tammy Ruth, director of community investment for the United Way of Aiken County, offered a theory about why Aiken was on the “worst driving” list.
She believes it could be related to the layout downtown, where parkways divide streets that are one way on each side of the those areas.
There also is the circle-go, square-no rule for intersections. On the circles, drivers can turn left or travel through the intersections when there is a red light.
“It’s confusing,” said Ruth, who added that new drivers in Aiken need time “to learn the system.”
Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon said he hasn’t noticed that local drivers act any differently from drivers he has seen in other South Carolina cities he has visited.
But Osbon does believe that QuoteWizard’s study “serves as a reminder to all of us that safety is important."
“We should always put safety first when we are behind the wheel of a vehicle,” Osbon added.
Lt. Jake Mahoney of the Aiken Department of Public Safety described Aiken drivers as being “on par with other drivers in the state.
“I don’t know what they (QuoteWizard) used to base that ranking on and I haven’t seen their data, so I’m not going to comment on what they say about Aiken drivers,” Mahoney continued. “But I think we can all make our community safer by obeying the traffic laws, specifically those for which the violations involve speeding, following too close, disregarding traffic control devices and driving under the influence.
"Folks violating those statutes create a greater risk for the motoring public, and those violations tend to be the leading contributors to our motor vehicle collisions. They are the focus of our traffic enforcement efforts.”
When drivers in Aiken are caught violating traffic laws, “we give out a fairly even number of citations versus warnings,” Mahoney said. “The idea is to encourage them to follow the existing traffic laws.”
After reviewing a report of the results of the QuoteWizard analysis, S.C. Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, offered the following comments:
“Talk to drivers in nearly every state, and they will tend to tell you their state has the worst drivers. It’s understandable because driving has become incidental to all the distractions inside a vehicle.
“Most everyone is fiddling with their smartphone, GPS maps and all the onboard electronics. One step forward would be for the General Assembly to pass my hands-free bill that would require drivers to put down their cell phones and drive.”