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GMAC Study Shows NY, NY, HI Drivers Score the Lowest on Rules-of-the-Road Test

Source: GMAC

Posted on 20 May 2009

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New York drivers are the worst in the nation, at least on paper, and neighboring New Jersey motorists are right behind, according to a test by GMAC LLC that measured rules-of-the-road knowledge.

The national average for the test was 76.6 percent, with below 70 percent considered failing, said the study released today by GMAC Insurance Group, the auto insurer that is a subsidiary of Detroit-based GMAC. New York drivers came in last with a score of 70.5 percent. New Jersey came in second to last, with 71.5 percent and Hawaii was third from the bottom, with 72 percent. Motorists from Idaho and Wisconsin tied for first, with an average score of 80.6 percent.

Applying the test results nationally, 20.1 percent of licensed drivers, or about 41 million motorists, “may be unfit for roads” and wouldn’t pass a written exam if taken today, the study said.

“I promise we’re not trying to pick on New York and New Jersey,” said Wade Bontrager, a GMAC spokesman who manages the team that oversaw the study, conducted to raise motorist awareness before the summer driving season. “Over the years you do see the worse scores coming from some of the most congested traffic areas every year. And if anywhere is congested, it’s New York.”

The written test was taken by 5,183 drivers, aged 16 and over, from the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the study by GMAC Insurance Group, the auto insurer that is a subsidiary of Detroit-based GMAC.

It was the second time New York ranked last in the survey’s five-year history. New Jersey was last in 2008, and Hawaii was No. 45 last year.

Fatality Rate

The latest fatality study by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows New York’s rate for every 100 million miles traveled is 0.97, the eighth-lowest in the country. New Jersey’s fatality rate is 0.95, the sixth-lowest, according to the 2007 statistics. Hawaii’s rate is 1.33, the 24th lowest. Montana has the worst rate at 2.45 and Massachusetts ranked the best at 0.76.

The score of drivers with knowledge of basic road rules decreased this year, averaging 76.6 percent to last year’s 78.1 percent, according to the GMAC test, which consisted of 20 questions taken from department of motor vehicle tests across the country.

Nationally, only 15 percent of drivers knew the correct answer to what to do at a traffic light with a steady yellow signal -- stop if it is safe to do so -- according to the study. Almost three of every four drivers couldn’t identify a typical safe following distance to the car in front of them: three seconds.

Correct Answers

On the positive side, 98 percent of the test takers knew what to do when an emergency vehicle with flashing lights approaches, what to do when hydroplaning and the meaning of a solid yellow line.

Men averaged 81 percent on the test to 79 percent for women. The exam was taken in March and had a 1.5 percent margin of error.

Carlo Agirra, a 31-year-old truck driver from the Bronx, was given the 20-question multiple choice test in his truck by a Bloomberg reporter and scored 95 percent.

“Everyone here is so busy trying to drive and get where they’re going that no one ever learns how to drive, but I didn’t think we were that bad,” said Agirra. “I thought everyone knew this stuff. It’s mostly common sense, but I guess this is New York.”