Iowa Ranks #1 for Drivers, but...


According to a study by AAA, Americans spend around 70 billion hours driving each year. Anyone who has driven in different parts of the country knows the quality of those hours can vary drastically depending on the particular state or city in which you are traveling. I have previously made known my preference for driving along Iowa's relaxed roadways versus the hellscape of the West Coast's cluttered traffic and freeways. A new study conducted by expertise .com, which evaluated safety, cost, and traffic conditions in all 50 states, concurs by ranking Iowa #1 as the best state for drivers.

Iowa received high scores in driver safety and car ownership costs, with top marks in seatbelt usage rates, low road congestion, and short commute times. Iowa also scored in the top five for the lowest car repair costs and lowest annual insurance premiums. As a former licensed insurance professional in Nevada, a state that ranks among the worst for high premiums, I found the latter interesting.

Overall, the data found in the survey reinforces my long-standing belief that Iowa, and our own Palo Alto County in particular, is a great place to drive.

Ah, but there is a minor annoyance I must address, the meat in this "positive sandwich" of a column. While I've previously discussed the need for more consistent turn signal usage in our community, I've found a much more glaring issue on the road as of late: 4-way stop behavior.

Look, I enjoy our community's overwhelming kindness towards their fellow citizens as much as the next person, but a 4-way stop is governed by rules of right-of-way and not by the waving hand of a neighbor. If I arrive at the stop with my left turn signal flashing and you are directly across from me with plans to go straight, it's your move. Instead it’s been turning into that weird dance where the driver starts waving me through while I’m waiting for them to proceed. I inevitably give up and inch forward only to watch as the other driver goes into motion at the same time. We then both stop and repeat the whole process over again. It's a little frustrating and potentially hazardous, and similar situations are happening more every day.

To keep traffic flowing smoothly and safely, follow the four rules of the 4-way stop:

• First come, first served: The first car to arrive at the intersection receives the right of way. It doesn’t matter where the vehicle is located or what direction it is traveling

• Yield to right: If it isn’t clear which car arrived first, yield to the car on the right.

• Straight over turning: When two vehicles arrive head-to-head at the same time and one of the vehicles intends to turn and the other intends to go straight, the vehicle going straight has right of way.

• Right over left: When two vehicles arrive head-to-head at the same time and one of the vehicles intends to turn right and the other intends to turn left, the vehicle turning right goes first.

We are fortunate to live in a tight-knit community full of friendly faces, within a state where driving is considered more of a pleasurable than painful experience. I appreciate seeing friends and neighbors out on the roadways and always enjoy a wave "hello" rather than one of direction. Here's hoping we can stay #1 for many years to come.


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