Thomas Howard: We don’t have to be 50th in driving too


Mississippi drivers are the worst, according to a new study released last week by SmartAsset, an online personal finance website. As if we needed a study to know that.

I cannot express how frequently I have to bite my tongue or stop myself from making a rude hand gesture while driving around our otherwise beautiful state. From not using turn signals, stopping on highway merging ramps, flat out refusal to use headlights – even at night and in inclement weather – and don’t even get me started on lumber trucks, I am not the least bit surprised Mississippi drivers rank among the worst in the nation.

But that isn’t even the most concerning part of the report. SmartAsset reports only 78 percent of Mississippi drivers are insured. As someone who has another four years of car payments to look forward to, that isn’t encouraging, not to mention state law requires motorist to carry proof of insurance.

Car insurance is a pain. It’s expensive, complicated and just a general headache. But it is also extremely important.

No one leaves the house planning to be in a car accident, but they do happen. It’s easy to forget just how complex cars are, but getting behind the wheel of a car is directing a thousand pounds of steel, plastic and electronics that is hurtling along at a mile per minute on four quarter-inch-thick pieces of rubber over an abrasive surface, propelled by hundreds of explosions fueled by several gallons of highly flammable liquid. Its amazing accidents are as rare as they are.

To help avoid accidents, car manufactures incorporate safety mechanisms in their designs such as seatbelts and airbags to protect passengers, and headlights and turn signals to help other drivers know where the car is and where it is going.

As a last resort, we have car insurance, of which there are several kinds. Full coverage, the most expensive, helps cover injuries and vehicle damage to both cars involved in an accident. Liability insurance helps pay for the other driver’s car if an accident is deemed your fault. Insurance is yet another measure of safety, protecting drivers and from years-long lawsuits and bankruptcy and giving peace of mind knowing if something does happen, it will be alright.

In Newton County, we are blessed with several auto parts stores and service stations, and I’m sure all of them would be more than willing to help their friends and neighbors with a quick safety check, install new bulbs and make sure all lights are working. We also have a good number of insurance agencies, who could help residents review their options for insurance.

Mississippi is last on a lot of lists, and most of the issues can’t be fixed with a 15-minute trip to NAPA and State Farm. This one can. Let’s aim to be safer on the roads and let Alabama, currently No. 2, have our spot as the worst drivers in America.


Thomas is the managing editor of the Newton County Appeal. He can be reached at