Study: 18 Million Americans May Be Unfit for Roads

May 30, 2006

Results from the second annual GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test suggest licensed Americans lack basic driving knowledge and exhibit alarming behaviors on the road.

The study revealed that one in eleven drivers–nearly 18 million people–would fail a state drivers test. Furthermore, the study shows drivers deliberately disregard pedestrians and treat driving as the new “down time,” where they catch up on the day’s activities, diverting their attention from the road.

The startling results come one year after GMAC Insurance first set out to gauge the knowledge of the American driving public, when licensed drivers were administered 20 questions found on a typical DMV written drivers test.

The 2006 findings indicate drivers still do not have adequate knowledge of basic rules of the road, and they exhibit bad habits behind the wheel. For the second year in a row, Oregon drivers ranked highest on the test, with an average score of 91 percent (70 percent or higher is required to pass a standard drivers test), and Rhode Island ranked lowest, with an average score of 75 percent.

“The rules of the road should not be something you learn once when you are 16 years old,” said Gary Kusumi, CEO and president, GMAC Insuranc, Personal Lines. “We want to remind everyone that they need to work on their driving skills every day. If we’re all diligent, we can avoid many accidents and stay safe.”

The drivers test administered in the study is available to the public online at, as well as additional resources such as tips to stay safe on the road and the most common accident causes.

Pedestrians Beware–Drivers Disregard Those on Foot

Results suggest that many Americans exhibit shocking driving behaviors that not only endanger themselves, but jeopardize others both on and off the road. Roughly one in three drivers usually do not stop for pedestrians–even if they’re in a crosswalk or at a yellow light.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), pedestrians constitute the second largest category of motor vehicle crash deaths after vehicle occupants, accounting for 11 percent of fatalities.

Forty-three percent of all pedestrian injuries and 22 percent of fatal injuries to pedestrians occur in collisions with motor vehicles at intersections. In addition, many pedestrians are killed on sidewalks, median strips and traffic islands.

The New Driving Experience – Driving is the New “Down Time”

The study unearthed a growing trend in which Americans treat driving as a time to catch up on activities they didn’t get to in their hectic day. Results show that while driving, American drivers engage in a variety of distracting behaviors, including chatting on a cell phone, sending text messages, e-mailing friends, selecting songs on iPods, applying makeup, changing clothes and reading. Drivers aged 18-24 have the most mentions in every situation.

“We need to remember that when we turn the car on, we need to turn the gadgets off,” said Gary Kusumi, CEO and president, GMAC Insurance, Personal Lines. “It is critical that all of us focus on the roads, so that we are better, safer drivers.”


Overall, drivers in the Northeast region are most apt to fail the test, with state failure rates of 16 percent or more.

Drivers in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest regions are the most knowledgeable, with state failure rates ranging from 1-7 percent.

Drivers under 35 years old are most likely to fail a written driving test (18-24 year olds have the lowest average test scores); experienced drivers ages 35-60+, are most likely to pass a written driving test.

Pedestrian Protocol:

Roughly 1 in 3 drivers don’t usually stop for pedestrians–even if they’re in a crosswalk or at a yellow light.

At least 1 out of 5 drivers do not know that a pedestrian has the right of way at a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

Driving is the New “Down Time”

American drivers engage in a variety of distracting behaviors, like chatting on a cell phone, sending text messages, e-mailing friends, selecting songs on iPods, applying makeup, changing clothes and reading.

Eating and talking on a cell phone are by far the most common activities (42 percent eat and 40 percent chat on cell phones).

Younger drivers aged 18-24 who are accustomed to always being “plugged in” have the most mentions for every distracting situation while driving:

Eat – 62%

Talk on a cell phone – 71%

Send text messages – 24%

Select songs on an iPod – 20%

Apply makeup – 8%

Change clothes – 8%

Read – 4%

Send e-mails – 1%

More Bad Driving Habits

Nearly one-quarter of Americans believe there are circumstances in which it’s acceptable to not wear a seatbelt.

One in 7 Americans have packed their car so tightly that their vision was obstructed.

At least 1 in 5 drivers do not know:

When to properly use their high-beam headlights or what to do when bright headlights come at them at night.

That highways are the most slippery just when it starts to rain after a dry spell. In fact, this is the question most often answered incorrectly for the second year in a row. Fortunately, 97% of those tested know what to do when they hydroplane.

The test was administered by MarketTools, a leading global online market research company. A balanced sample of 5,288 total licensed respondents, aged 16-60+, were given a 20-question test representative of a DMV written drivers test typically used to award a driver’s permit or license.

Who has the most knowledgeable drivers in the nation? The following is a complete list of state rankings for the 2006 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test.

1 Oregon
2 Washington
3 Vermont
4 Idaho
4 South Dakota
6 Montana
7 Nebraska
8 Kansas
9 Iowa
10 Wyoming
11 Wisconsin
12 Minnesota
13 Alaska
14 California
15 Indiana
15 Colorado
17 Michigan
18 North Dakota
19 West Virginia
20 Utah
21 Mississippi
22 Illinois
23 Tennessee
24 Texas
24 Kentucky
26 New Hampshire
27 Arkansas
28 Virginia
29 Arizona
30 Georgia
30 Louisiana
32 North Carolina
32 Maine
34 Ohio
35 Oklahoma
36 Alabama
37 Missouri
37 Delaware
39 Nevada
40 South Carolina
40 Florida
42 Pennsylvania
43 New Mexico
44 Connecticut
45 Hawaii
46 Maryland
47 New York
48 New Jersey
48 Massachusetts
50 District of Columbia
51 Rhode Island

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