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1 in 5 Licensed Drivers Would Fail a Written Driving Exam, New York Drivers the Worst

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GMAC Insurance released results from its 2010 National Drivers Test today, showing that 1 in 5 licensed drivers – roughly 38 million Americans – would not pass a written drivers test exam if taken today.

5,202 licensed drivers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia answered questions in an online survey. The first part of the survey asked participants 20 multiple-choice questions from Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) tests. The second part of the survey asked additional questions exploring distracting habits such as texting while driving.

With 100 being the perfect score and 70 a failing grade, the national average score decreased to 76.2 percent from 76.6 percent in 2009. Regionally, the northeast had the lowest average test scores and the Midwest the best.

“It’s discouraging to see that overall average test scores are lower than last year,” said Wade Bontrager, senior vice president, GMAC Insurance in a news release. “American drivers need to make safety a top priority and be aware of the rules of the road at all times. The National Drivers Test allows everyone to brush up on their driving knowledge with a brief refresher course.”

The study gave each state a ranking based upon average score. New York ranked 51st with an average score of 70.0, New Jersey ranked 50th with a 70.5 and coming in first place with the highest average score, Kansas with an 82.3. See where your state ranked.

“What we have seen pretty typically is obviously New York and New Jersey do poorly, and those areas that have really large urban population centers,” Bontrager told Bloomberg Businessweek. “You have people that drive in an area that’s much more congested, much more fast- paced, and the rules of the road aren’t quite as top of the mind as somebody driving at a little slower pace.”

Study results show that 73% of drivers could not properly identify a typical safe following distance from the car in front of them and 85% of drivers did not know what to do at a steady yellow traffic light.

Results of the distracted driving portion of the study found that talking with other passengers is the leading distraction with 52% of participants. 25% of drivers admitted to talking on a cell phone, selecting songs on an iPod or CD, adjusting the radio or eating while driving their vehicle. 5% reported that they text while driving.

TNS, the world’s largest provider of custom research and analysis, administered the study for GMAC.

Do you think you can do better? Take the 2010 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test.