Road Hazard: 20% of U.S. Drivers Would Flunk If Given Driving Test

May 27, 2010

The nation’s most knowledgeable drivers are in Idaho, Wisconsin, Montana and Kansas, while the least knowledgeable are in New York, New Jersey, Hawaii and California.

That’s according to results from the 2009 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test, which found that 20.1 percent of licensed Americans – amounting to roughly 41 million drivers on the road – would not pass a written drivers test exam if taken today.

When probed on driving behavior, 30 percent of those surveyed say financial strains have triggered a desire to drive less and seek out new ways to save money.

Overall, findings from the fifth annual survey indicate the number of drivers with knowledge of basic road rules is decreasing, with this year’s test scores lower than last year’s (76.6 percent vs. 78.1 percent).

Idaho and Wisconsin drivers tied for first in the nation, with an average test score of 80.6 percent; New York drivers ranked last, with an average score of 70.5 percent. This is the second time Idaho ranked first and the second time New York has ranked last in the survey’s five-year history.

In general, geographical regions ranked similarly to previous years, with the lowest average test scores in the Northeast, while the states in the Midwest held the highest averages.

When comparing genders, men are still more likely to pass the test than women, but the gap is considerably smaller in 2009 (81 percent of males versus 79 percent of females) than in 2008 (87 percent of males versus 80 percent of females).

Respondents continued to have difficulty on questions about yellow lights and safe following distances, while almost all drivers answered correctly what a solid line meant.

Additional key findings from the 2009 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test include:

  • With Age Comes Wisdom: The older the driver, the higher the test score. Drivers 35+ years old were most likely to pass. The age group with the highest failure rates was young adults (18 to 24 years old). White males older than 45 received the highest average score.
  • The Northeast had the lowest average test scores (74.5 percent), the South had the highest failure rate (41 percent). The Midwest had the highest average test scores (79 percent) and the lowest failure rates (15 percent).
  • Idaho and Wisconsin replaced Kansas’s 2008 ranking as most knowledgeable; New York replaced New Jersey’s 2008 ranking as least knowledgeable.

Economy Lowers Driving

In addition to the 20-question DMV exam, GMAC Insurance posed subsequent questions exploring participants’ planned driving habits for the following year and their take on mileage-based auto insurance programs (pay-as-you-drive insurance). These findings reveal:

  • Approximately 30 percent of drivers surveyed reported they plan on driving less within the following 12 months, with the primary reason being “worry over the economy” (74 percent). Twenty-four percent indicated they plan on driving less to “reduce expenses due to financial problems.”
  • Ninety-three percent of respondents had never heard of a “pay as you go insurance” pricing model for automobile insurance.
  • However, one-in-three drivers (35 percent) would enroll in a “pay as you go insurance” program, such as the GMAC Insurance Low-Mileage Discount, if their insurance company offered one.

State Rankings

Where are the most knowledgeable drivers in the nation? The following is a complete list of state rankings for the 2009 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test.

1 ID 19 NM 37 LA
1 WI 20 NC 38 TN
3 MT 21 VA 38 MS
4 KS 22 IN 40 SC
5 SD 22 MI 40 MD
5 NE 24 AR 42 CT
7 UT 24 TX 43 FL
8 WY 26 AL 44 DC
8 IA 26 NV 45 MA
8 OR 28 WV 46 RI
8 MN 29 IL 47 GA
12 AK 30 AZ 48 CA
12 ND 31 ME 49 HI
14 VT 32 DE 50 NJ
15 CO 33 NH 51 NY
15 MO 34 OH
17 OK 35 KY
17 WA 36 PA

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