Report: Connecticut 3rd worst state for drivers
A website that helps people make smarter financial decisions has ranked Connecticut the third worst state for drivers, based largely on its high insurance costs and poor road conditions.
The bankrate.com report, released earlier this month, analyzed government and independent data on vehicle thefts, crash fatalities, gas prices, repair costs, insurance premiums, commute times and road conditions.
It split the factors into three categories and gave each a weight, with cost being the most important followed by driving quality, then safety.
All told, only California and Hawaii ranked worse than Connecticut.
“It was surprising to me that Connecticut was up there with places like California,” said Adrian Garcia, data analyst for bankrate.com. “But when you look at the percentage of roads in poor condition — it’s 35 percent — that’s really on the high end and helped bring the state down to the bottom five.”
Garcia said the road condition data came from TRIP, a private nonprofit research group founded in 1971. TRIP estimates about 22 percent of roads are in poor condition nationwide.
Garcia said Connecticut ranked 33rd in the 2016 bankrate.com study, but that one didn’t include road conditions. Bankrate.com didn’t put out a similar study last year.
Bankrate.com compiles the report because, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, car-related costs are second only to mortgage or rent for most U.S. citizens.
“It makes sense for us to give people who may be looking at where to start a career or move their family ... insight about what driving would be like in that state,” Garcia said.
Those who already live in Connecticut and can’t reasonably use public transportation should shop for the best insurance rates and consider carpooling, Garcia said. Working from home some days or traveling during off-peak hours also can help, when applicable.
“Public transportation — and not just in Connecticut — it’s not at a place yet where drivers can give up their keys,” Garcia said. “We have to do things that can benefit us absent of that.”
The report came less than a month after the state Department of Transportation called for $12.1 billion to build and repair infrastructure and boost public transportation over the next five years.
For comparison, DOT spent $7.7 billion on capital projects in the last five years.
State Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, who’s a member of the Transportation Committee, said the proposed increase “speaks to the magnitude of the problem.”
“It’s incumbent upon us as legislators, I think, to figure out a solution to help them get there,” he said.
Scanlon said other data support bankrate.com’s findings.
Only 10 percent of Connecticut’s 20,000 miles of public roadways, for example, were built after 1984, he said. And congestion, Scanlon said, costs Connecticut about $1.2 billion annually in lost productivity.
“The fact that the average Connecticut resident spends 40 hours per year stuck in traffic — a whole week’s worth of their life spent in traffic in Connecticut — I think it’s not surprising that we rank low,” he said.
Now that the transportation lockbox measure passed, making it harder for politicians to divert transportation funding to other projects, Scanlon said he would consider voting for tolls.
“We really have to look at this, not just as do we want to pay one dollar’s worth of tolls once a week, but as are we willing to pay a dollar ... to get Connecticut in a more economically competitive place,” Scanlon said.
State Rep. Devin Carney, R-Old Lyme, also wasn’t surprised by the low ranking.
Carney, a ranking member of the Transportation Committee, said he would consider approving tolls if Connecticut did something similar to Massachusetts, which has electronic tollgates only along Interstate 90.
“That’s very different from the plans the (Connecticut) DOT has released,” said Carney, who said DOT has suggested placing multiple tollgates on interstates 84, 95 and 91 and routes 2, 8, 9 and 11.
“It’s going to be a big topic of discussion in the upcoming session,” Carney said. “I think we have to proceed to see what the DOT wants to spend money on and how. We should prioritize bonding in terms of fixing highways and bridges, but that’s not always what the DOT bonds for.”
Both Carney and Scanlon said some funding should go toward improving public transportation, particularly along the I-95 corridor.
Aging Shore Line East trains increasingly have been canceled or delayed and replaced by buses, Scanlon said, causing commuters to be late for work.
Meanwhile, the state has proposed “strategic widening” of I-95 that would cost at least $4 billion.
“These are real people,” Scanlon said. “Sometimes it’s easy for us to forget, when we constantly defund this program ... that we’re impacting lives and hurting economic development and job growth.”
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