Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Americans need crash course in driving

By Chavon Sutton, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- One in five licensed drivers -- some 38 million Americans -- lack the knowledge necessary to pass a written driving test, and even more are distracted while driving, according to a survey released Thursday.

The annual GMAC Insurance National Drivers test polled 5,202 licensed drivers from 50 states and the District of Columbia with a 20-question test derived from state department of motor vehicles exams. A passing grade was 70% or better. The survey also asked additional questions about distracting habits such as texting while driving.

Overall scores dropped from a year ago. Licensed drivers posted an average score of 76.2% versus 76.6% in 2009.

"It's discouraging to see that overall average test scores are lower than last year," said Wade Bontrager, senior vice president of GMAC Insurance, in a prepared statement.

Nearly three out of four couldn't identify safe following distances and some 85% incorrectly responded to questions about what to do when approaching a steady yellow light. This signals that licensed drivers lack knowledge of fundamental road rules, GMAC Insurance said.

Test performance varied widely by region. Drivers in the Midwest scored 77.5% on average, the highest among all regions, and had the lowest failure rates at 11.9%. Conversely, the Northeast scored the worst with an average score of 74.9% and had the highest failure rate of 25.1%.

Drivers in Kansas topped the nation with an 82.3% average score, while New Yorkers were last on the list with a score of 70%.

Even more alarming is that Americans are increasingly multi-tasking while behind the wheel, the study found. About 25% of those surveyed admitted to driving while talking on a cell phone, eating, or adjusting their radios or iPods.

While only 5% of drivers said they texted while driving, Bontrager said that the "surprisingly low" number is still higher than it ought to be, adding that drivers may not have responded honestly to this question.

"The really sad thing is that you see [texting while driving] more and more in young drivers," said Bontrager. "They are not only the least experienced, but also need to pay the most attention to the road."

According to Bontrager, historic data supports that women tend to have fewer accidents than men, but the survey found that they were more likely to engage in distracting activities while driving than their male counterparts. And women also scored nearly four percentage points lower on the overall test than men, who averaged a score of 78.1%.

Although complete knowledge of the rules of the road won't shield drivers from all accidents, being informed helps to ensure that they are more prepared to deal with unexpected events, Bontrager said.

"An informed driver is a safer driver, period," he said.  To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 15,914.74 -99.64 -0.62%
Nasdaq 4,283.59 14.83 0.35%
S&P 500 1,851.86 -0.35 -0.02%
Treasuries 1.70 -0.02 -1.39%
Data as of 9:29pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 11.98 -0.22 -1.80%
Facebook Inc 101.00 1.46 1.47%
Pfizer Inc 29.49 0.39 1.34%
Apple Inc 94.27 -0.72 -0.76%
Microsoft Corp 49.71 0.43 0.87%
Data as of 4:15pm ET
Sponsors

Sections

Average U.S. household will save $320 on gas this year compared to last year, and nearly $1,000 compared to 2014. More

The Fed Chair was criticized on a range of issues, from China and monetary policy to black unemployment and the strong dollar. More

Twitter's stock is sinking fast after the company reported that it lost customers in the fourth quarter of 2015. More

STEM3 Academy was started specifically for students with autism, ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome. Its STEM-based curriculum is breaking through barriers. More

The average price for domestic airfare dropped in the third quarter of 2015, and travel experts expect the trend to continue in 2016. More