The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

One in Five Drivers Would Likely Fail Written DMV Test

June 04, 2010

WINSTON-SALEM, NC - Nearly 1 in 5 licensed drivers — roughly 38 million Americans — would not pass a written drivers test exam if taken today, according to the results of the 2010 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test. On average, Kansas drivers performed highest, while New York drivers scored lowest. 

The sixth annual survey polled 5,202 licensed Americans from 50 states and the District of Columbia, gauging driver knowledge by administering 20 questions taken from state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) exams. Additional questions explored distracting habits such as texting while driving.

Kansas drivers ranked first in the nation with an average score of 82.3 percent, while New York drivers ranked last, averaging 70 percent.

Overall, findings indicate a number of licensed Americans continue to lack knowledge of basic rules of the road; the national average score decreased to 76.2 percent from 76.6 percent in 2009. Eighty-five percent could not identify the correct action to take when approaching a steady yellow traffic light, and many remained confused by safe following distances.

When analyzed regionally, the results reveal drivers in the Northeast may not be as road-rule savvy as their Midwestern counterparts. The Northeast had the lowest average test scores (74.9 percent) and had the highest failure rate (25.1 percent). The Midwest region had the highest average test scores (77.5 percent) and the lowest failure rates (11.9 percent).

Results also indicate that the older the driver, the higher the score. Males over 45 earned the highest average test score. Males also out-performed females overall in terms of average score (78.1 percent male versus 74.4 percent female) and failure rates (24 percent female versus 18.1 percent male).

Additional questions from the survey reveal drivers conduct a variety of distracting behaviors behind the wheel. Approximately 1 in 4 participants admitted to driving while talking on a cell phone, eating, and adjusting the radio or selecting songs on an iPod.  However, only five percent reported they text while driving. Overall, a significantly higher percentage of females than males reported engaging in the following distracting situations: conversation with passengers, selecting songs on an iPod or CD/adjusting the radio, talking on a cell phone, eating, applying make-up, and reading.

Full results of the survey are available at


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