New report ranks Iowa as second-best state to drive in

A Dec. 5 study by the consumer financial services company Bankrate showed that Iowa beat out all but one other state in terms of affordability, road quality, and other factors important to motorists.


Wyatt Dlouhy

Cars drive on Burlington Street in Iowa City on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018.

Christopher Borro, News Reporter

A national report has ranked Iowa as the second-best state for motorists in the country.

According to the 2018 Bankrate Best States for Drivers Study, only North Dakota beats the Hawkeye State when it comes to safety, affordability,  and other factors for regular commuters.

The study, released Dec. 5, is performed every other year by the New York-based consumer financial-service company Bankrate. Iowa previously placed third in its 2016 rankings.

Joining North Dakota and Iowa at the top of the rankings were Ohio, Minnesota, and Nebraska. The study judged California, Hawaii, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Washington as the worst states for motorists.

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“I believe the Iowa [Department of Transportation] does a really good job at focusing on safety and prioritizing how to spend public money on roads and infrastructure,” said Brock Grenis, the transit administrator and planner for the East Central Iowa Council of Governments.

The council provides eight Iowa counties with professional planning services, and Grenis’ work involves meeting with transit, engineering, and planning agencies to prioritize road projects for funding.

“We do planning for new and existing transit routes and see the day-to-day operations of our regional transit systems,” Grenis said.

He said he believed Iowa’s roads were in good condition; as a regular commuter, he travels among various counties for work.

Barton Cramer, a University of Iowa adjunct assistant professor of urban and regional planning, has experienced the benefits Iowa provides to drivers firsthand.

“When I came here from Houston, Texas, my car insurance rates dropped a lot,” he said in an email to The Daily Iowan. Texas was 40th in Bankrate’s ranking. “I put it down to fewer car thefts and the fact that many accidents are of the ‘slide into a snowbank’ variety.”

Infrastructure plays another key role in the state’s road quality, Steven Spears, a UI assistant professor of urban and regional planning, said in an email to the DI.

“Iowa is one of the highest-spending states for roads on a per capita basis,” Spears said. “One problem Iowa is facing as far as roads go is aging bridges. The state’s proportion of structurally deficient bridges is the highest in the nation at more than 20 percent.”

Spears said that though the bridges are not in danger of collapsing, they do need repairs, and many motorists are not necessarily aware of the issue.

According to the American Automobile Association, the average regular gas price per gallon in Iowa is only $2.14; California, Bankrate’s worst state for motorists, had an average cost of $3.44 per gallon. In Iowa, the average insurance premiums for cars was lower than those in all but four states, according to an October 2018 study by Cost continues to be a large factor for people with options for transportation, Spears said.

“By that, I mean not only the cost of running the vehicle but also the time cost,” he said. “That’s why people in areas with high traffic congestion use public transportation or bicycles as an alternative to the car. In some places like Iowa City, where parking is constrained and can be expensive, that’s a factor, too.”