• Jun 5th 2009 at 4:57PM
  • 58
Raise your hand if you think your home state has the worst drivers in America. Now, lower your hands if you don't happen to live in either New York or New Jersey. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that the average driver in your particular state is all that great, regardless of what city you choose to call home. According to this year's GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test, an alarming 20.1% of licensed Americans would not pass a written drivers test exam if taken today.
For what it's worth, those people who couldn't manage to pass the basic driving test amount to roughly 41 million drivers that are currently piloting two-ton weapons of mass destruction on American roads. Before you get all up in arms over this news, consider taking the test yourself. Even if you pass, you might pick up on a few valuable reminders that may have slipped your mind at some point since you last took the test, probably at just 16 years of age or so.

Oh, the states that have the smartest drivers? That would be Idaho and Wisconsin, which tied for first place with an average test score of 80.6 percent.

[Source: GMAC Insurance | Photo: fireflythegreat - cc 2.0]


41 Million Licensed Americans May be Unfit for Roads, According to Fifth Annual GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test

Most Knowledgeable Drivers in Idaho and Wisconsin, Least Knowledgeable in New York; Economic Concerns Trigger "Drive Less" Trends Across U.S.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C - Results from the 2009 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test released today 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.

"When we began this campaign five years ago, we embarked on a mission to help drivers become more aware of the rules of the road," said Wade Bontrager, senior vice president, Affinity Division, GMAC Insurance. "We've seen the results ebb and flow, and this year, scores are down. This reiterates the fact that each and every one of us need to continually be brushing up on safe driving practices."

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.

Survey Says: Economic Concerns Causing People to Drive Less

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

The survey, which polled more than 5,000 licensed Americans from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, is designed to gauge driver knowledge by administering 20 actual questions taken from state Department of Motor Vehicles exams. The margin of error for the total sample surveyed is 1.4 percent.

Get in the Driver's Seat: Take the Test Yourself

GMAC Insurance encourages the public to put their skills to the test at www.gmacinsurance.com. Play a quirky driving game, take the written test itself, compare your score to the national average and challenge friends to top your score via email and Facebook. Also, see how your state ranked in previous years and, most importantly, brush up on safe driving tips.

The GMAC Insurance survey was administered by TNS, a leading market information resource and the world's largest provider of custom research and analysis. The national sample was comprised of 5,183 licensed drivers in the United States, aged 16-60+. For more information about TNS, please visit www.tns-us.com.

For more information about GMAC Insurance coverage and to find a local independent agent, call 877-468-3466, or visit www.gmacinsurance.com.

The GMAC Insurance Group is one of the largest automobile insurers in the United States and is a wholly owned subsidiary of GMAC Financial Services. GMAC Insurance Personal Lines offers a variety of property and casualty products, including personal auto, RV, motorcycle, commercial auto and homeowners insurance. With a nationwide network of claims professionals, local independent agents and a 24-hour, toll-free claims hotline available 365 days a year, GMAC Insurance provides superior claims service for its customers.

About GMAC Financial Services

GMAC Financial Services is a bank holding company with operations in North America, South America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. GMAC specializes in automotive finance, real estate finance, insurance, commercial finance and online banking. As of Dec. 31, 2008, the organization had $189 billion in assets and serviced 15 million customers around the world. Visit the GMAC media site at media.gmacfs.com for more information.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      NY and NJ have the worst drivers. WHAT A SHOCK

      I lived in NJ for 6 years and i found out blinkers are optional and traffic lights are just a suggestion.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I've never been to Cali but i heard there worse
        • 6 Years Ago
        I live in Jersey now, and boy are these people idiots wish I was back in NY. Moving to Florida, need heat, hopefully they drive better.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Too many illegal aliens in CA that a) Don't speak English b) Don't care
        • 6 Years Ago

        Well you'll enjoy the heat, more so in some areas than others (depending on where you live, I live(d) in Ft. Lauderdale and I'm going to school in Orlando right now). I know I love it. But don't expect better drivers. That's gonna change depending where you are too but for the most part our drivers are pretty sh!tty. I got a 90% though
        • 6 Years Ago
        I've driven in Cali and NY and NJ and NJ has by far the highest proportion of people who change lanes without signaling at WELL above the speed limit...drive on the Turnpike and it's almost a guarantee.

        New York (as a state, not the city) on the other hand seems to be filled with morons who think driving under the speed limit in the left lane is a good idea, although to be fair at least a few times I've seen this stupidity it was idiots from Canada who probably were used to the numbers being kilometers. You don't see this near the NYC metro area because anybody trying this will immediately find themselves being honked at by about 20 people. Of course driving near NYC means that trying to follow the 3-second distance rule is damned near impossible if you ever want to actually drive anywhere because if you attempt to maintain following distance you will soon find idiots swerving and cutting you off one by one. So I suspect New York's dead last ranking is largely in part to every single person taking the test from NYC flunking the 3 second following distance rule.

        I honestly don't recall witnessing any particularly egregious driving out in Cali-yeah people didn't always signal and people cut in and out just like NY and NJ but there were just fewer idiots doing it. Of course the traffic in a lot of the urban areas there is so bad I don't know how much of an opportunity you really even have to drive like a moron when you're crawling at 3mph.
        • 6 Years Ago
        A buddy of mine went to Vegas a couple years back and said the same thing about traffic lights. When you're stopped at a red, you wait about 3 seconds AFTER it goes green before you go. People run reds there like the run yellows everywhere else.

        Also, that has got to be the most difficult to read list of values EVER.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I got an 80%
      and i'm 13
      • 6 Years Ago
      South Carolina is at 40? i was guessing we would come in dead last.
      • 6 Years Ago
      100%. Learned to drive in Wisconsin, but I'm stuck in TX now.

      Regardless of state, some of the worst driving areas are around military posts. Too many people from too many different places, all driving like they're still back home. Add to that a town/city that usually doesn't have the roads to handle the extra traffic, and a fact that the majority of drivers all go to work, lunch, and back home at the exact same time.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Scored 75%. But I never took a test in North America so few "region" specific questions were off my limits.

      But the test reminded me of a UK chemistry test. Instead of aiming to test whether kids understand principles of chemical reactions, the questions went like this. What is the color of a compound that results from Na reacting with Cl? I'm not really surprised when my North American friends who drove in Europe claim that 80% of NA drivers would not be able to drive in Europe.

      Remaining 20% are, of course, Autoblog readers and Staff :-)
        • 6 Years Ago
        Thanks for the shout out, Kitko ;)

      • 6 Years Ago
      I got 80%... And I have never even been to America... What is the minimum score required to pass over there? Here in Australia, at least in WA where I live, the minimum score is 26/30, and that is just to get a learners permit.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I'm from Australia too but have been to the states once and I got 90%. Written driving tests are never that hard, I don't see how anyone could fail. It's plain scary that so many idiots are on the road.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Ok wait, something is wrong.... Question#8 (I scored 95%)
      I got pulled over and a warning for this.... (in Michigan)

      8. You may pass on the right of another vehicle when:
      A. When traveling on a multi-lane highway carrying two or more lanes of traffic in the same direction
      B. The other vehicle is making or about to make a left turn, when a lane is provided to pass on the right
      C. Both answers are correct (right answer, I picked B)

      Well, it doesn't matter, I've also got pulled over and told I didn't use a turn signal when I did..... damn you 5-O!!! LOL!!
        • 6 Years Ago
        Don't feel bad about missing #8. That law varies by state. In some states option A is legal, and in some it's not.

        Sorry, I don't have a source handy to prove this.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Got it wrong too and also chose B. I got my driver's license in Germany and there is no passing on the right.
      • 6 Years Ago
      16. Under most conditions what is a safe following distance?
      3 seconds, 10 seconds, 20 seconds...?

      Last time I checked, time and distance were not two words for the same thing. :-| Oh well, got a 90%...One of the few sane people in NY.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Just because someone scores well in this test doesn't mean that they actually practice these rules of the road.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This is the only question i got wrong.

      18. When you approach a traffic signal displaying a steady yellow light, you must:

      The answer was to stop.
      I chose slow down and proceed with caution.

      When the hell is there a traffic signal with a steady yellow light?
      Here in NJ, we have the yellow that comes after the light has been green, right before it turns red, and we have blinking yellows which mean to slow down and proceed with caution. But i've never seen a solid yellow for any extended amount of time.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The Yellow before the switch to red is what they are referring to. It didn't say solid yellow for any length of time, just solid yellow (not flashing) ;)
      • 6 Years Ago
      Pretty sure they are actually incorrect about passing on the shoulder for left turning vehicles. At least in Washington State, unless the law has changed since we learned to drive. They were pretty clear about that in driver's ed. Also, I believe overtaking a vehicle and passing him on the right is technically illegal in Washington, though I've never seen it enforced.
        • 6 Years Ago
        My girlfriend got pulled over for passing a slow car on the right on I-5 just north or Vancouver, WA (3 lanes each direction). So you are correct, it is illegal in WA. I also got that one wrong.
        • 6 Years Ago
        That is the only question I got wrong... Also from Washington. They should remove that question if they are going to call it the "national" driving test, somebody could read that answer and think it was legal in their state.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Maryland drivers (particularly the ones who live in the Baltimore/Washington area) are a road-hazard waiting to happen - due to their tendency to drive in their own little world - completely unaware of the other drivers and road conditions around them.

      If you drive through this region, keep your focus on the road and ESPECIALLY those drivers mentioned above...
        • 6 Years Ago
        You aren't kidding. Try being a motorcyclist.
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