Study: 1 in 10 four-wheelers would flunk driving test

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A recent survey found that 20 million American drivers lack basic knowledge of driving rules and safety procedures.

The inaugural GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test was commissioned by GMAC Insurance, part of General Motors’ finance subsidiary. It questioned almost 5,000 drivers nationwide between the ages of 16 and 65.

The participants were given a 20-question written exam comparable to those used by states to award driver permits. It found that one in 10 American drivers would fail a state drivers’ test if tested today.

Most states require a score of 70 percent or higher to qualify for a permit. Participants in the study from Oregon and Washington scored the highest, 89 percent and 88 percent, respectively. Rhode Island respondents scored the lowest, 77 percent. The national average was 82 percent.

The results suggest that many drivers have difficulty with standard driving practices such as yielding for left turns, interpreting road signs and merging. Half of the respondents reported that they do not know how to merge into heavy traffic.

The results also show that one in five drivers do not know that pedestrians have the right of way at marked or unmarked crosswalks; one in three drivers speed up at yellow lights even when pedestrians are in crosswalks; and one in four drivers roll through stop signs instead of coming to a complete stop.

The study revealed that many drivers engage in dangerous driving behavior, including drinking while driving. Twenty-nine percent — 57 million drivers — admitted that they have driven with a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit if they “felt OK.”

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, since 1997 a third of all fatally injured vehicle drivers had a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or above, a level that is illegal in every state.