How Am I Driving?

“How am I driving?” You see the question all the time on the back of delivery trucks, usually accompanied by a phone number you can call to report offenders. Maybe we should require passenger vehicles to post a phone number on their rear bumpers. It might make a lot of dunderheads think twice if they feared getting an earful in their earpiece. Rude, reckless and down-right bad drivers cause accidents and drive up the cost of car insurance for all of us. And there are a whole lot of them.

According to the 2011 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test, one in five drivers wouldn’t be able to meet the basic requirements to pass a driver’s licensing test. That’s almost 37 million people out there without a clue. Eighty-five percent of participants didn’t know what to do when approaching a traffic signal showing a steady yellow light and 75 percent self-identified as tail-gaters by not being able to identify the correct following distance. FYI: the answers are “stop if it’s safe to do so” and  “three seconds.”

The GMAC survey, now in its seventh year, polled 5,130 licensed drivers from 50 states and D.C. They represented a fair sample of both men and women, different ethnicities and ages. It provided 20 multiple choice questions culled from various DMV exams around the country. Among the highlights of the findings:

  • Men outscored women with average scores of 80.2 percent compared to 74.1 percent. Fewer men bombed out, too: 13.6 percent of men failed the test versus 27.2 percent of female participants.
  • Midwesterners got the highest average scores (77.5 percent), with Kansas drivers racking up the best overall scores. Northeasterners did worst (74.9 percent), and D.C. drivers nudged out New Yorkers as the nation’s worst drivers according to test scores, with 34 percent in both areas failing altogether.
  • Drivers aged 60 to 65 got the highest average test scores (80.3 percent).

There’s a big relationship between driver safety and cheap car insurance. If it’s been a while since you had to take a written driving test, visit your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles and pick up the test booklet. Many states provide free downloads or even sample tests on their websites. Brush up on the basics and see if any laws have changed since the last time you took the test. You’ll be doing yourself and the rest of us a big favor.


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