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We can’t all be ‘better than average,’ so how safe are Bellingham drivers, really?

Here’s where accidents are most likely to happen in Bellingham

Bellingham Police logged 1,350 accidents from January 2016 to June 2017. Here are the intersections that saw the highest number of accidents.
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Bellingham Police logged 1,350 accidents from January 2016 to June 2017. Here are the intersections that saw the highest number of accidents.

Chances are you think you’re a good driver — or at least “better than average.” And we’re not saying you’re not.

But here’s the rub: the driver in the lane next you probably thinks they’re “better than average,” too. And that “jerk” in front of you that just cut you off? Oh, they definitely think so.

OK, maybe that person behind you admits they have some room for improvement, so better keep an eye on that rear view mirror. But that’s still three out of four people thinking they’re “better than average.”

According to a study by AAA released in January, 73 percent of U.S. drivers consider themselves better than average — men, in particular, grade their abilities highly, with eight in 10 saying they’re above average. Some studies suggest as many as 93 percent of us think we’re good drivers, yet AAA reported 90 percent of crashes are the result of human error.

So ... maybe not all of us are as good at driving as we thought? Not all of us can be above average.

But if you live in Bellingham, here is one feather you can tuck in your cap: we, as a community, actually are among the safest driving cities in Washington state.

In fact, a study released Thursday morning by QuoteWizard, a website that compares car insurance quotes, rated Bellingham the fifth-safest driving city in the Evergreen State.

Well, there you have it — maybe we are above average.

According to a release on the study, more than 25,000 data points were compiled from QuoteWizard users in Washington on speeding tickets, accidents, DUIs and other citations in the last year, and the rate of incidents were calculated for each city.

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A driver makes a left turn on Telegraph Road during rush hour in May 2011 in Bellingham. A study released Thursday morning by QuoteWizard rates Bellingham the fifth safest driving city in the Evergreen State. ANDY BRONSON THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Moses Lake was found to be the safest-driving city in the state, the study said, followed by Port Angeles, Bothell, Oak Harbor and then Bellingham. Rounding out the top 10 in the state were Yelm, Bellevue, Vancouver, Seattle and Longview.

OK, once again, there is a rub: Washington state drivers were rated the fifth-worst in the nation by QuoteWizard in a study published in December. We aren’t as bad 50th-ranked California, but we’re a long, long ways behind top-ranked Rhode Island.

So that makes us the city with the fifth-safest drivers in the fifth-worst driving state — but, hey, we’re still No. 5!

According to Washington State Department of Transportation statistics, there were 1,489 total crashes in Bellingham in 2017. Of those, four were fatal and another 381 were suspected to have involved at least some level of injury. All three numbers were increases from 2016, when Bellingham had 1,434 accidents, one of which was fatal and 376 more of which involved injury.

In an effort to help 2018’s crash statistics, the Bellingham Police announced via Twitter Wednesday that it will have a pair of areas of emphasis this week. The first will focus on distracted driving in the city center from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24 on North State Street and North Forest Street. The focus will be crosswalk safety enforcement in the city center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug 25.

A similar four-hour distracted driving emphasis last Friday at the intersection Lincoln Street and Lakeway Drive and along Forest, State and East Holly Street observed 59 violations and yielded 30 verbal warnings and 39 citations, 28 of which were for cell phone usage, according to an email from Lt. Don Almer.

OK, so maybe some people do have some room for improvement behind the wheel ... or is that what passes for “average” these days?

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