Results of a study released Thursday suggest that millions of Americans lack basic knowledge of rules of the road and safe automobile operation.
In fact, the study shows that if tested today, one in 10 drivers – nearly 20 million Americans – would fail a state drivers test. Furthermore, the study evaluated Americans’ everyday driving habits, unveiling dangerous driving behaviors.
The alarming results were part of the inaugural GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test, a study of almost 5,000 licensed drivers nationwide, between ages 16-65 years, designed to gauge Americans’ driving knowledge. Respondents were administered a 20-question written test representative of those used to award state drivers permits or licenses.
Oregon drivers ranked highest on the test with an overall average score of 89 percent (70 percent or higher is required to pass a standard driving test); Rhode Island ranked lowest with an overall average score of 77 percent.
Results suggest that many Americans find standard driving practices vexing, including merging, failure to yield when making left turns, and road-sign interpretation. In addition, many may not take such important topics as drinking and driving seriously enough. Twenty-nine percent (57 million) of drivers who drink admitted they would knowingly drive while over the legal limit “if they felt okay.”
“The test supports the need to stay abreast of the rules of the road, and to put them into practice each and every day,” said Gary Kusumi, CEO and president, GMAC Insurance – Personal Lines. “Part of our job as auto insurers is to educate our customers, empowering them to become better, safer drivers to avoid accidents and to keep their lives moving. ”
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a non-profit research organization funded by auto insurers, areas where respondents showed lack of knowledge or a propensity for unsafe practices are also common causes of auto accidents.
For example, IIHS research shows that speeding increases both the likelihood of crashing and the severity of the crashes that do occur and that younger drivers speed more often than older drivers. In addition, the IIHS states that alcohol-impaired driving is still a major problem. Since 1997 about a third of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers have had a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above. Driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher is illegal in every state.
“As a nation of drivers, we’ve made little progress in the past 10 years to curb some of the most dangerous driving behaviors, including drinking and driving and speeding,” said Susan Ferguson, PhD, senior vice president of research, International Institute for Highway Safety. “This study underscores the importance of safer driving habits and more consistent law enforcement.”
General Driving Safety Knowledge: Where Americans are Lacking:
* Drivers 18-24 years old are most likely to fail a written driving test (78 percent passing rate); drivers 50-64 years are most likely to pass (85 percent passing rate).
* Drivers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are the least knowledgeable; 1 in 5 were unable to pass the written drivers test.
* Drivers in the Pacific Northwest and Great Lakes are the most knowledgeable with a failure rate of 1 to 3 percent.
* At least 1 out of 5 drivers do not know that a pedestrian has the right of way at a marked or unmarked crosswalk. This is of special concern considering that drivers in urban areas are among the least knowledgeable in the nation.
* 1 out of 3 drivers claim to speed up to make a yellow light even when pedestrians are in the crosswalk.
* 1 out of 4 drivers would roll through a stop sign rather than come to a complete stop.
According to IIHS in 2003, 48 percent of all pedestrian injuries and 21 percent of fatal injuries to pedestrians occur in collisions with motor vehicles at intersections.
Fasten Your Seatbelts: Speeding Remains a Problem
* The nation’s least knowledgeable drivers (Northeast and Mid-Atlantic drivers) are the most likely to speed.
* Nebraska’s drivers are least likely to exceed the speed limit.
* 1 out of 10 drivers regularly drives over the speed limit by 11 or more miles per hour, although 58 percent of drivers feel that driving 10 miles per hour over the speed limit on the interstate is dangerous.
* Younger drivers (18-24 years old) are most likely to speed; older drivers (65+) are least likely.
More Bad Driving Habits
* Half of Americans report that they do not know how to merge into heavy traffic.
* 60 percent of Americans say that they change lanes on a highway without using their blinker.
* One-third of Americans have packed their car so tightly that their vision was obstructed.
* 17 percent of Americans have driven without a rear view or driver’s side mirror.
* 1 out of 5 drivers do not know that highways are the most slippery just when it starts to rain after a dry spell. Fortunately, 96 percent of those tested say that they know what to do when they hydroplane.
The test was administered by TNS NFO, a custom research company and a provider of social and political polling, www.tns-global.com. Drivers 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 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test.
9 West Virginia
12 North Dakota
13 North Carolina
19 South Dakota
24 New Hampshire
27 South Carolina
29 New Mexico
45 District of Columbia
45 New York
47 New Jersey
49 Rhode Island