Mark Twain famously said, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Keep that in mind as you take in this assertion from random insurance comparison service Quote Wizard. According to Quote Wizard, Pearland drivers, “rank first in accidents and second in DUI rates.” the article goes on to state that a record like that is “lousy enough to make Pearland the worst drivers in Texas on our list.”
Quote Wizard or QW as I have suddenly decided I am going to call them, also named Amarillo as the best drivers in Texas. QW pulled this data from its own site to make these determinations. While the numbers are almost certainly there to back up these labels, you have to wonder about outliers that affect them. For example, it’s not a complete data set, just the data supplied by QW’s own users. In addition to that, there’s no indication that QW took into account population or the fastidiousness of each city’s police force. Having lived in Pearland, I can say for certain that Pearland Police are extremely…uh…vigilant. I’m not saying it’s a speed trap, but you’d just better keep under the posted speed limit, okay?
I’ve lived in Texas my whole life. I lived in Victoria until the age of 13 when my family moved to Pearland. I went to junior high and high school there, and in 2002, I moved to Austin for school. I’ve lived in the Austin area since, which makes it my longest city of residence in the state of Texas.
I can confidently say that Austin drivers are pretty bad. When I lived in Jester on UT campus I used to joke that all the drivers were homicidal and all the pedestrians were suicidal. Drivers barrel around campus as if they were on a demolition derby course, and pedestrians simply dart across lanes of traffic completely unmindful of the crosswalks and signals. That little game of chicken extends beyond UT though. Just drive through North Austin’s favorite outdoor mall, the Domain, if you want to see tons of people simply walking into the street, pretending that if they don’t make eye contact with the drivers, then they won’t be run over. I personally don’t put that much faith in Austin drivers and intentionally stare them down as I cross any street or parking lot. You might argue this fact, but when we have signs on Highway 71 that say “SHARE THE ROAD,” and “ALLOW MERGING AT FREEWAY EXIT LANES”, you have to admit that maybe our drivers are not the best or friendliest. That’s Austin though. It’s a large metropolitan city that is swiftly becoming a cross-section of the United States. Pearland is a whole other ball of wax.
It would be an understatement to say that Pearland has changed a lot since I moved away. The southeast Houston suburb was once referred to as “Houston’s best-kept secret”. The secret is out now though. After hurricane Katrina in 2005, Pearland’s population (along with much of the rest of Houston) experienced a veritable explosion. In fact, it has more than doubled since I left in 2002, going up from just over fifty thousand to well over one hundred thousand. In addition to that, it expanded in area. When I lived there, 288 was the unofficial border of Pearland, but now it is very well populated on both sides of the highway. Whenever I go for a visit I drive down 518 and play a little game with myself called, “That used to be a pasture”.
So are Pearland drivers really the worst in all of Texas? It’s been 14 years since I moved away, so I don’t think I’m in a position to positively refute that claim without doing tons of research on my own, but it does seem a little far-fetched. I think it is important, when reading any statistics, to realize that they can be interpreted many ways, and outliers do effect their analysis. Let’s look at how QW translated their data.
From the article, it states: “We sampled incident data from the users of our website. To quantify overall driver standards for comparison, we weighted various incident counts for each city with its occurrence percentage. The final rankings are a sum of weighted means that is calculated from total accidents, speeding tickets, DUIs, and citations.”
So it doesn’t state on here whether the data collected is aggregate or per capita. Texas residents know that West Texas is sparsely populated. So if you’re comparing, say, Dallas with its 1.3 million residents (within the city limits alone) with El Paso who has just under 650 thousand residents, it’s important to use per capita calculations, or the data will be totally skewed. I’m not saying that that is the case here, but QW did refer to West Texas as “The best driving region in the state,” which makes me wonder if they took population into account.
Whether you agree or disagree with their assertions, it’s important to remember that Quote Wizard is from Seattle, Washington, and it’s doubtful they’ve really done much driving across the Lone Star State.