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16% of drivers unfit for roads; Indiana 11th best, Illinois below par

November 16, 2010

Illinois drivers trail those in 31 other states, on average, in their knowledge of the rules of the road, according to a study by a vehicle insurer released May 22. Indiana drivers ranked 11th best in the study.

In all, the 2008 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test found that 16.4 percent of all drivers on the road—about 33 licensed Americans—would not pass a written drivers test if taken today.

The fourth annual survey, which polled 5,524 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 (DMV) exams. Kansas drivers ranked first in the nation, with an average test score of 84.0 percent; New Jersey drivers ranked last, with an average score of 69.9 percent.

Indiana drivers scored an average 80.6 percent. Illinois drivers ranked 32nd in the country, with a 77.5 average. The ranking for Illinois is an improvement over 2007, when it was in 45th place.

Overall, findings from the 2008 survey indicate that an alarming number of licensed Americans continue to lack knowledge of basic rules of the road. While the national average score improved slightly—to 78.1 percent from 77.1 percent in 2007—in general, geographical regions ranked similarly to previous years, with the lowest average test scores in the Northeast. 

Across the board, respondents continued to have difficulty on questions about yellow lights and safe following distances.  Eighty-four percent could not identify the correct action to take when approaching a steady yellow traffic light, and 73 percent could not properly identify a typical safe following distance from the car in front of them.

Additional key findings from the 2008 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test include:

• Drivers ages 35 and older years old were most likely to pass.

• Women (20 percent) were more likely to fail the test than men (13 percent)

• The Northeast had the lowest average test scores (76 percent) and the highest failure rates (19.8 percent)

• The Midwest had the highest average test scores (81 percent) and the lowest failure rates (11 percent)

• New York, New Jersey, the District of Columbia and Massachusetts ranked within the last five places for the past three years

Fortunately, nearly all respondents (98 percent) know what to do when an emergency vehicle with flashing lights approaches, what to do when hydroplaning and the meaning of a solid yellow line.