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Eye on Boise: Boise named 5th-safest driving city, best in West

Boise is the fifth-safest driving city in the nation, according to a report from Allstate Insurance, which has been compiling its rankings annually for the past 12 years based on claims data and collisions; Idaho’s capital city has ranked in the top 10 every year for the past eight years.

The report was released just in time for the July Fourth holiday weekend – the single deadliest time of the year for drivers on U.S. roads, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Boise was ranked highest in the West, with the only other western city making the top 10 being, believe it or not, Reno, Nevada, at No. 10.

Clark Nielsen, owner of Allstate insurance agencies in Boise and Meridian, said the data shows Boise drivers are likely to be involved in a collision only once every 12.8 years, vs. the national average of 10 years. “I’m just quite proud of our town – it’s a wonderful place to live, and obviously this is just an indicator of it,” he said.

This year, the report also analyzed braking habits in more than 100 cities, looking for “hard-braking events,” which are defined as slowing down 8 mph or more over a one-second period. Hard-braking incidents correlate with collision frequency; nationally, U.S. drivers experience an average of 19 hard-braking events for every 1,000 miles driven. In Boise, that figure was just 11.6 events, sixth-lowest among the cities analyzed; lowest was Madison, Wisconsin, at 9.

For the overall safest-driving cities rankings, Brownsville, Texas, came in first, with drivers there 31.4 percent less likely to experience a collision than the national average. Boise drivers were 22.1 percent less likely than the national average. The survey covers the nation’s 200 largest cities.

Ranking second was Kansas City, Kansas; third, Madison, Wisconsin; fourth, Cape Coral, Florida; fifth, Boise; sixth, Huntsville, Alabama; seventh, Port Saint Lucie, Florida; eighth, Wichita, Kansas; ninth, Olathe, Kansas; and 10th, Reno.

Allstate also reported that Anchorage, Alaska, was the “most improved” city in this year’s rankings, jumping up 58 places from last year to rank 69th safest driving city among the 200.

So why is it so much safer to drive in Boise than, say, West Valley, Utah (ranked 87th), Seattle (183th), Eugene (42nd), Spokane (54th) or Salt Lake City (78th)? Population density and weather are among the factors that Allstate weighed. But most of it apparently comes down to good driving habits, from drivers leaving room between them and the vehicles they’re following to minimizing distractions while driving, including eating, texting, grooming and more.

“We’re just a little bit more conscientious, all in all,” Nielsen said. “That’s really what I think it boils down to.”

But Boise can’t rest on its laurels; it’s actually slipped in the rankings in the last few years. It rose from No. 9 in 2009 to No. 3 in 2010, and ranked second on the list in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The next two years Boise ranked third, and now it’s fifth.

The city that ranked the worst in the rankings should be no surprise to anyone who’s ever driven there: Boston ranked last – 200th – last year.

Calling it

something else

Officials at Idaho’s state Bureau of Homeland Security were downright tired of folks confusing them with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. So the state agency’s name has officially changed to the Idaho Office of Emergency Management.

It actually took a new law to change the name. HB 355 passed both houses unanimously and was signed into law by Gov. Butch Otter on March 22. Like most new state laws, it took effect July 1.

The agency was created as the Bureau of Disaster Services in 1975; in 2004, it was combined with the Bureau of Hazardous Materials into the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security, which also was assigned responsibility to respond to terrorist threats, along with natural disasters, fires, explosions, riots and the like.

The bureau, which falls under Idaho’s Military Division, announced that its website has changed from bhs.idaho.gov to IOEM.idaho.gov.

VW owners due

for payments, fixes

Idahoans who own certain models of Volkswagens and Audis from model years 2009 through 2015 are eligible for cash payments of $5,100 apiece and having their cars either purchased from them, or modified to fix emission problems.

It’s part of a 43-state settlement, announced by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, over violations of consumer protection laws; Volkswagen sold diesel vehicles in the U.S. that were equipped with a “defeat device” to circumvent emissions testing devices. And the company tried to conceal the existence of the device from regulators and the public, marketing the vehicles as “green” and in compliance with pollution standards.

“The scope of Volkswagen’s fraudulent actions was unfathomable,” Wasden said in a statement. “Ensuring that companies make truthful statements and claims about their products is important to consumers and essential for the marketplace to work properly.”

Owners of the cars will get a choice of either a buyback of the vehicle based on pre-scandal value; or modifications to fix the emission systems along with an extended warranty and coverage against future problems with the modifications. There’s more on the settlement, which covers Jettas, Golfs, Beetles and Passats and Audi A3s, on Wasden’s website, www.ag.idaho.gov.