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Earth to California: Learn how to drive!

June 4, 2009 |  4:58 pm

We’re No. 48!

At least that’s where California ranked among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in GMAC Insurance’s fifth annual National Drivers Test.

Stop.sign GMAC surveyed more than 5,000 licensed drivers throughout the country, asking them to answer 20 questions gleaned from actual state drivers license exams. Based on the results of the survey, the insurer concluded that 20% of the licensed drivers in the U.S. — or about 40 million people — wouldn’t pass a written test if they had to take one today.

The average test score was 76.6%, down from last year's average of 78.1%.

Drivers in Idaho and Wisconsin tied for first, with an average test score of 80.6%. New York ranked last with an average score of 70.5%. The only other states that scored lower than California were New Jersey and Hawaii.

Drivers seemed to have particular trouble getting their minds around what to do at a yellow light and what constitutes a safe following distance. The concept of the solid-line lane marker, on the other hand, was familiar to just about everyone, according to GMAC.

A few other factoids:

  • Drivers over age 35 were most likely to pass, while young adults ages 18 to 24 had the highest failure rate.
  • Men were more likely than women to pass the test, but by a statistically insignificant margin — 81% to 79%.
  • Drivers in the Midwest had both the highest average test scores (79%) and the lowest failure rate (15%). The Northeast had the lowest average test scores (74.5%), and the South had the highest failure rate (41%). 

You can take the test yourself at GMAC's website. Just for the record, I scored a 90% (so I like to tailgate – what's the big deal?).

-- Martin Zimmerman

Photo: A stop sign in the Hollywood Hills. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times