To continue on my latest post

GMAC Insurance released their 2010 National Drivers Test results. The findings are interesting:

  • If taken today, 18.4 percent of drivers on the road – amounting to roughly 38 million licensed Americans – would not pass a written drivers test exam.
  • The national average score was 76.2 percent; a score below 70 percent is considered failing.
  • Average test scores in 2010 continue to show a slight trending downward, from 76.6 percent in 2009 to 76.2 percent this year and a drop of almost 2 percent from the national average in 2008 (78.1 percent).
  • With Age Comes Wisdom: The older the driver, the higher the test score. Males over 45 earned the highest average score.
  • Factoring in margin for error, the average test score was significantly higher among males than females (78.1 percent male versus 74.4 percent female). Females also had a higher failure rate than males (24 percent female versus 18.1 percent male).

I’m not particularly surprised at the results. It can be hard to remember which of several similar answers is correct, which partially accounts for the low score; but this isn’t an excuse on something this important. The way I see it, the results are evidence that nearly one fifth of the licensed drivers in the country should have their licenses suspended until they re-pass their licensing requirements. Even this is optimistic. A survey like this can’t distinguish between book knowledge and its application. How many people can pass the test but never follow the rules afterward? This could be examined by including both the scores on the driver’s written tests and state accident data in the analysis.

Even in the wildly optimistic case that all drivers are able to re-pass the driver’s licensing tests after driving for a few years, it still wouldn’t be enough to ensure safe roads. The driver’s tests are currently only for the absolute minimum required knowledge and skill to drive a car on public roads, safe driving requires much more skill and awareness. A good step toward this level of driving is to take the ABATE or MSF motorcycle safety test. I think that passing one of these courses should be a prerequisite to applying for a car learner’s permit. This would make the roads much safer.

The GMAC test is online so you can try it yourself. Then you should read my page on safe driving around bicycles.

Source: 2010 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test via AOL Autos via USA Today. Note that this was an online survey.