Bluegrass white-knuckle corridor

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By Christopher Brooke

 The closest tie to Louisville I used to have in my youth came in the form of the long concrete path of Interstate 64, which hastened my journey to see family in Cincinnati through its connection to I-71.

As a child and passenger, the trip through Kentucky didn’t mean that much to me — just a means to an end and a sightseeing tour chauffeured by my dad.

But, as a teenager learning to drive, picking up momentum down the grade from the Corydon, Ind., crossing the Ohio River into Louisville with oodles of streaming passenger vehicles and tractor-trailers caused me an extended period of unease followed by the proverbial sheer moments of terror when it was time to make the transition from 64 to 71.

The distance from the river to the Snyder represented the most intense driving experience along the way. 

Some of it arose from the ease with which a newbie driver could take a wrong turn.

Much of it arose from the great volume of my fellow drivers zooming in and out and around my parents’ Reliant.

A few motorists even seemed to play a game called “let’s see how close we can get to this Hoosier’s bumper.” The winners were those fellow travelers where, using the rearview mirror, I could look directly into their eyes and tell the color.

The term “aggressive driver” became long associated with Louisville for me.

This drive down memory lane occurred just after Allstate sent me a copy of their tenth America’s Best Drivers Report, placing Louisville as the 60th city out of 200 for crash frequency.

“Allstate research found that 70 percent of vehicles involved in auto claims are considered drivable, which indicates that most claims are the result of low speed (under 35 miles per hour) collisions,” according to an accompanying news release. 

Based on nationwide collision claims the insurance juggernaut received from 2011 to 2012, the report states that the average driver in the United States will experience a crash about every 10 years.

Compare that to the declared “safest driving city” of Fort Collins, Colo., where the average motorist can avoid a wreck for 14.2 years, making folks there 29.6 percent less likely to find themselves in an accident than the national average.

For Louisville, people on the roads have a slightly elevated chance of having a fender-bender at 2.2 percent higher than national, or as the report puts it once every 9.8 years.

As a mature driver now, I have a different perspective on road safety.

Instead of fearing all the traffic, I look at the interstates and expressways and find with amazement that, while undeniably messy and potentially dangerous, these superhighways operate relatively smoothly on a daily basis.

Tens of thousands vehicles probably pass over 64 and 71 for every one accident.

Also, over the years, I’ve made friends with Louisvillians and know first hand that most are happy, friendly, well-adjusted people — while out from behind the wheel, anyway.

Still, memories of high speed travel anxiety on these interstates stays buried in my reptilian brain, telling me to keep driving defensively even today.