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Study measures driver misery

No wonder nobody honks in North Dakota.

North Dakota is home to some of the nations' least-miserable drivers, a recent study suggests.

The state ranked third-best in the Total Driver Misery Index recently released by Automobile magazine, falling behind only Wyoming and Montana. Minnesota came in 20th.

Officials from the AAA automobile clubs in both states said their respective rankings sound about right to them.

"I would have been shocked if I would have been told North Dakota wasn't somewhere in the top five," said Gene LaDoucer of AAA North Dakota.

Gail Weinholzer, director of public affairs for AAA Minnesota/Iowa, said 20th strikes her as a fair assessment for Minnesota, especially because the top states are some of the most rural in the U.S. Rounding out the top five are Utah and Nebraska.

Weinholzer said the state would have less behind-the-wheel hair-pulling if it weren't for the Twin Cities.

"I'm sure our metropolitan area is dragging that down a bit," she said.

The study was published in the January issue of the auto magazine and draws its conclusions from three data sets: one gauging cost, and two others measuring the level of harassment and aggravation on the state's roads.

Cost figures include the average price of ownership over five years, plus state gas taxes, driver's license fees and percentage of toll roads. (Apparently it didn't count bridges because both North Dakota and Minnesota were listed as having no tolls.)

Harassment was measured by the number of cops on the highways, the state speed limit, whether cameras are used to catch red-light and speeding violations, and other factors.

Road conditions, congestion, renewal requirements and inspections were parts of the aggravation formula.

North Dakota scored well across the board. LaDoucer said the cost of driving is especially low in the state.

"There's little to impede motorists from getting around North Dakota fairly inexpensively," he said.

Minnesota's worst scores came in cost, where it was ranked the third-most expensive state for drivers. Its five-year average of taxes and fees was estimated at $3,354. In comparison, the five-year average in North Dakota was $1,865.

Big-city congestion may not have been as big of a factor for Minnesota as Weinholzer guessed. Minnesota was listed as having 18.4 cars per mile. For example, that's lower than the 20.4 on the hustle-bustle highways of Vermont.

No state had fewer cars per mile than the 3.9 found in North Dakota, according to the study.

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The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Echo Press are Forum Communications Company newspapers.

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