41 million licensed Americans may be unfit for roads
Most knowledgeable drivers in Idaho and Wisconsin, least knowledgeable in New York; economic concerns trigger “drive less” trends across U.S.
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.
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 to 60-plus.
For more information about TNS, please visit www.tns-us.com.
Common driving mistakes
How the states rank
Idaho drivers know the rules