Are You the 1 in 5?

Excerpted from the internet:

“If you spend any amount of time behind the wheel, the results of a recent national drivers test should scare you. And if they don’t, they should.

In late May, GMAC Insurance reported that nearly 1 in 5 drivers — or about 38 million Americans — could not pass a written drivers test if they took it today.”

Folks, if ever we needed one, THIS is our wake up call.  As a citizens of this country and residents of this city, we deserve better than the findings of this report.

“…..It’s very discouraging that overall test scores are lower than last year’s,” Bontrager said. “Driving safety must be a top priority, and drivers just have to be aware of the rules of the road at all times.”

38 million people apparently do not possess even the most basic knowledge of operating rules and principles on our roads.  The article states that even when we know the rules, we are sometimes lax in following set rules.

Just food for thought.  Are you a part of the 38 million?  Find out today.

Ride BIG and Ride on!

27 replies
  1. Keri
    Keri says:

    I got 100% 🙂

    It is, indeed, distressing that a test this basic has a 20% failure rate. I bet I could add a few more relevant safety questions that would substantially increase the failure rate of American drivers.

  2. NE2
    NE2 says:

    I probably wouldn’t get 100% – don’t they have questions like “what’s the minimum fine for drinking and driving” or somesuch? My memory of when I took the test is vague, but I do know I passed.

      • NE2
        NE2 says:

        Oh, I was thinking about the actual test.

        My comments on this test:
        1. Depends on conditions. I might slow, change lanes, and carefully drive behind the pedestrian, or stop and let him cross to at least half a lane away and then continue. I’m choosing B but I’d do a mixture of B and C.
        9. This is another type of question I dislike. I’m sure I signal well before I have to, and I’ve forgotten how far I’m supposed to (I’m bad at judging distances anyway). Choosing A to be safe.
        12. Bad choices. Their correct answer (A) also applies to anything that delays another motorist, like cycling in the lane. The correct answer would be “you may cause a crash if the driver in front stops suddenly”.
        13. I believe this differs from state to state, and probably in all states a cyclist can. Going with C but I think a combination of A and B is correct in some places.
        14. Depends on whether there’s traffic nearby, whether the onramp creates a new lane (though in that case you could say it’s not merging), and other conditions. Going with A.
        15. Depends if there’s continuous traffic in the other direction. Going with B.
        17. You should get out of the way, whether that’s to the right, left, or ahead. Going with D, but that’s not always possible.

        And apparently I got all but 15. I guess fog reflects back the light, so high beams are bad – oops. Sounds like something I’d realize and correct.

        • NE2
          NE2 says:

          Update on 13: at least in Ontario it’s explicitly legal to use the shoulder for passing a left-turning vehicle. Many other jurisdictions ban it, though usually implicitly through the definition of roadway.

  3. Stix Cook
    Stix Cook says:

    Well, I got 90%. Rodney, I had the same feeling on Question 18 and missed it, too. The “time” between vehicles confused me and I picked the longest one but was wrong.

  4. Will
    Will says:

    I got 95%. Apparently I’m supposed to go faster on the highway. It really is bougs because if I match the speed of other traffic, I will be exceeding the speed limit. You can safely merge onto a highway at 5-10 mph under other traffic by modulating your speed to merge into a gap.

    • Scott
      Scott says:

      I also got a 95% because of question 14, to which I answered C, “The posted speed limit for traffic on the freeway”.

      Although I realize this is not a perfect answer — for example, one should not be traveling at the posted speed limit during a blizzard — the supposedly correct answer of “At or near the same speed as the traffic on the freeway” is also blatantly wrong.

      If everyone else on the freeway is traveling 90mph in a blizzard then I’m supposed to do the same? Doesn’t sound safe or legal to me.

      • Keri
        Keri says:

        I puzzled over that one but then thought about a congested urban freeway. The speed of traffic at certain times of day on I-4 approaches zero mph. So from that perspective, “at or near the speed of traffic seemed” the more reasonable choice. I figured they were approaching it from the assumption that freeway traffic ranges from slow-congested to ~5mph over the speed limit (in the inside lane).

        Most of these multiple choice tests require the taker to get into the head of the writer.

        • fred_dot_u
          fred_dot_u says:

          I think keri has hit it squarely on the mark. I took the test from the point of view of trying to encompass all the possible conditions represented in each question. Some of the answers can be rejected off-hand using that method.

          Of course, I don’t recall what I answered now, since it was “so long ago”.

  5. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    I can’t believe it! I got a hundred percent correct. Even the tricky ones were correct. These questions probably aren’t on real DMV tests.

    Despite the concept/study that says one in five will not pass, I expect the numbers for a driving skills test would be worse and isn’t that where it really counts?

    I’d like to see serious effort put into driving skills testing, to make the effort worthwhile. That would mean drivers would be failed and there would be a public uproar, which would lead to relaxation of the test requirements, but I’m just being cynical.

    • MikeOnBike
      MikeOnBike says:

      The question is which skills do you test. There’s not much point failing people for poor parallel parking.

      I believe most of the things motorists do wrong are things they KNOW are wrong. Like speeding, or running red lights, or weaving through traffic as if it’s a NASCAR race.

      Everybody would pass the test, because nobody would do those things during the test.

      I think it makes more sense to focus on meaningful consequences for screwing up.

      • Keri
        Keri says:

        Yeah, judgment is the more relevant issue and it is more difficult to test.

        When I was illustrating on the AAA Driving Survival Guide, the author told me stories of taking people out for remedial driver training. He would take them to an intersection with poor sight lines. Recidivist bad drivers would mindlessly enter the road as if it was clear. Not seeing anything registered as a clear path, even though they could not physically see whether or not the path was actually clear.

        • khal spencer
          khal spencer says:

          One of our cyclists recently paused when entering an intersection with the light so he could scan in both directions. It saved his life. He saw a motorist use the left turn lane on the cross street to illegally pass a bunch of cars and run the red at high speed; I guess the guy was late for something. If my friend had “mindlessly” entered the intersection, he would have been dead instead of writing to me about it.

          Please, please be careful out there. You own your first lines of defense. See the Layers of Safety stuff, for example, here:

        • Lou
          Lou says:

          The intersection near my home has terrible sight lines. And for the life of me, I can’t figure why there is no “No Turn On Red” sign there. I have seen these signs at other locations that have much better sight lines.

          I always take a right at this intersection but I never turn on red. No need for me to risk my life or anyone else’s.

  6. Khal Spencer
    Khal Spencer says:

    I just sent that article to our Insitutional Safety Committee. We have been arguing hammer and sickle about whether to institute a Laboratory-wide driver safety requirement. Thanks, as usual, Keri, for being on top of this.

  7. Tom
    Tom says:

    As did a few of you, I missed #18. I probably didn’t read all the options correctly. I also missed #8, simply because I was taught that passing on the right in their scenario is wrong.

    Thanks to Rondey for posting this. I have been thinking about this idea for a while, and am glad to find even an auto-centric insurance company doing something to raise awareness (even if I have a different take on their motivations…).

  8. Lou
    Lou says:

    And does knowing that 20% fail the test make a difference? You could have 100% pass the test, but until the police actually enforce the laws there won’t be any difference in drivers’ behavior.

    I was talking with a young co-worker about speeding. I mentioned that I never go above the posted speed limit and slow down when conditions require it. He said something about going 5-10 mph faster than the posted limit is fine because a cop won’t pull you over. It wasn’t about what was safe, it was about what he can do before a cop would pull him over.

    Even worse, the cops are telling us it is ok to speed. The sheriff’s department was putting out messages that said, “5 is fine, 9 you mine.” Meaning that it is ok to speed by 5 mph, but if they catch you going 9 mph over the limit, they will ticket you.

    • NE2
      NE2 says:

      Of course it’s also fallacious to equate the speed limit with what’s safe. Sometimes, like on a rural freeway, going faster is safe, and sometimes the posted limit is too fast.

    • Keri
      Keri says:

      This 5-over permissiveness also creates a sense of entitlement, fueling rage at people who don’t speed. So those of us who drive the speed limit get the pleasure of having an SUV grill filling our rear-view mirrors everywhere we go.

  9. Tor
    Tor says:

    @NE2: I very much agree with you on the speed limit/safety issue. Perhaps dangerous to say here, but I have at least wondered if removing the speed limits altogether might be a better option. Certainly not at first, but with better enforcement and training for safe driving regardless of speed, forcing drivers to make a judgment call about safe speed on every road at all times might actually be a good thing.

    I wasn’t here and driving when it happened (or at least not driving), but my drivers ed teacher mentioned that when the yield signs for right turns onto the highway were first put up [some] people seemed to take them to mean “go if the other guy won’t hit you, provided he slams on his brakes”, but that people soon got used to them and now they always seem to be treated sanely.

    As an example of speed limits not matching safe speeds in either direction, about three miles from where I live there is a hill with a long stretch of open road near it (in the last few years a few driveways have been put in, so safe speeds have gone down a little), but even so, I think the safe speed is somewhat over the posted 50.

    Just beyond it is a blind curve with nothing more than a curve warning sign is a blind curve that, in one direction at least, I don’t think it is possible to stop for a fixed hazard in the lane that appears around the corner, and I think 40 may be too fast.

    Actually, I think the best way to get people to slow down when driving would be to get them to do some noticeable cycling in traffic. I have noticed over the last few months that I have been back to riding that my average speed when driving is down a bit.


    • Keri
      Keri says:

      A few years ago, inspired by the Pace Car idea, I made a commitment to not exceed the speed limit

      For a while, I consciously drove the speed limit, but I had to think about it. When I moved downtown and started doing the majority of my travel by bike, I discovered an organic shift to slower driving without thinking about it. It seems my perception of my environment (and the amount of information I’m used to taking in as I drive) has shifted back to human scale. Now it feels uncomfortable to drive faster than the conditions (design speed, weather, etc) warrant.

      Of course, it also feels uncomfortable to have the grill of an SUV filling my rear window, but that’s another story…

      • Tor
        Tor says:

        While I do like your suggestion about perception shifting back to a more human scale, I am inclined towards a slightly different primary cause of the slowing. Both are quite possible and I don’t think you are “wrong”, and indeed may well be right.

        I find that when on my bike I tend to ride as fast as is safe and possible (usually without regard to speed limits – actually in either direction in the few cases where there is a slow one). I also think it is easier to really know on a gut level what my bike (and me as a rider) is capable of, perhaps partially because it is relatively safer to try the limits on a bicycle (provided there are no cars around!) than in a car. In addition, I think that cycling on the roads may help show what fixed or slow “hazards” (cyclist, pedestrian, stopped car, etc) one could find around the next bend in a more visceral manner than anything short of actually running into one of those hazards will do if you only drive a car.

        As for the pace car idea, I have already started to think about something funny for my bike, as there is a certain subset of drivers around here who like to shout at cyclists (never experienced anything worse than a honk or revved somewhat close pass besides), but anything that might reduce that would be a Good Thing in my book.


  10. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    The Pace Car idea is interesting. It would work for my wife’s Rav4EV because keeping the vehicle at the speed limit is good for economizing the range on batteries. My Gizmo EV rarely reaches the speed limit as is the case with the velomobile.

    I frequently think that cyclists controlling the lane are the equivalent of Pace Cars and the police should encourage it, in order to reduce speed related crashes. Perhaps that’s why the Daytona Beach Shores police officer waved to me (first) while on my loop through the city yesterday.

    Keri, feeling uncomfortable with the grill of an SUV in your rear window is probably akin to the same view in your bike mirror, yes? Such circumstances have me talking (calmly) to myself.

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