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How bad are D.C. drivers?

Motorist fatalities database | Test rankings | Take the test

District of Columbia drivers are the third worst in the nation, according to a survey by an insurance company on rules-of-the-road knowledge.

The national average for the test was 76.2 percent, with below 70 considered failing, according to GMAC Insurance. D.C. drivers were third from the bottom, with an average score of 71.9. New York drivers were the worst, with an average of 70 percent, and New Jersey motorists were second worst, averaging 70.5 percent. Motorists from Kansas ranked first, with an average score of 82.3 percent.

Maryland drivers ranked 20th, averaging 78.2 percent, and Virginia drivers were 28th with scores averaging 77.5 percent.


The test, which consists of 20 questions pulled from department of motor vehicle exams, was taken by 5,202 licensed drivers from all 50 states and the District in an online survey. It included at least 100 respondents from each state and the District.

Applying the test results nationally, almost 20 percent of licensed drivers, or about 38 million motorists, "may be unfit for roads" and wouldn't pass a state-issued written exam if taken today, the study said. The national test average fell from 76.6 percent in 2009, and 78.1 percent in 2008.

"It's discouraging to see that overall average test scores are lower," Wade Bontrager, a senior vice president at the company said in the statement. "American drivers need to make safety a top priority and be aware of the rules of the road."

Nationally, 15 percent of drivers knew the correct answer to what to do at a traffic light with a steady yellow signal -- stop if it is safe to do so -- according to the study. About 25 percent of participants admitted to driving while talking on mobile phones, eating and adjusting the radio or selecting songs on an iPod.

The frequency and severity of accidents is also correlated with driver speeds, seat-belt usage, and the quality of roads and cars, factors not measured in the survey.

You can take the test here. Tell us how you do -- and what you think about the rankings by posting a comment below.

-- Staff and wire reports

D.C. Sample Questions | Maryland Test Tutorial | Virginia Sample Tests

By Michael Bolden  |  May 27, 2010; 11:47 AM ET
Categories: 
Commuting , distracted driving , highways  
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Comments

Scored 90% here. Good questions on the test.

It would be interesting to know how scores correlate with international diversity from state to state. One suspects that road rules may vary pretty widely around the world.

Posted by: Hendo1 | May 27, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Hmm, why are they comparing DC (a city) with entire States? If you looked at NYC, Philly, and Baltimore, I bet DC drivers would be better.

Posted by: thetan | May 27, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

NYC is bad. But Florida is a darn close 2nd for horrible drivers, accidents & the like. Maybe because half of Florida is madeup of New Yorkers. The drivers in Chicago are absolutely pathetic too- traffic laws on the highways simply aren't enforced- especially tailgating- trucks included, whose speed limit they confusingly just raised to 65. Around Chicago & its suburbs, you commonly see gas tanker trucks 10 feet off other's bumpers doing 80 mph. Absolutely crazy, absolutely unsafe.

Posted by: rsampson02 | May 27, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

100% - 20 for 20. I grew up in New York and drive in DC every day, so I guess there are exceptions to the statistics :).

Then again, barely a day goes by that I don't see one of those rules on the test being violated by someone who doesn't know or care about the proper response for a given situation.

Posted by: Andy914 | May 27, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

If only knowledge of the rules had some correlation to how people drive.
(I missed a question but it might have been because I took the quiz on my smartphone while on the Beltway)

Posted by: priv05242010 | May 27, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

100%. But, like Andy, I see those rules violated daily.

Gotta admit, I violate some of them myself on occasion.

Posted by: wiredog | May 27, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Only 15% of US drivers know what to do when a traffic light is a steady yellow?!?!?!?!?

Posted by: nomayo | May 27, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I also scored 90%. I wonder what Dr. Gridlock scored...? I recall from one of his columns he wrote that at a clover leaf highway, cars exiting the highway should "of course" slow down for traffic getting on the highway. That's incorrect, Dr. G. A little red and white triangular sign on the right side of the on-ramp clearly directs on coming traffic to YIELD to drivers getting on the road. That's the rule. Wish people observed it.

Posted by: JPMM7 | May 27, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

If they gave the test to DC cab drivers, DC would rank last.

Posted by: 123cartoon | May 27, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

At ramps with an acceleration lane, there isn't a yield sign, or at least there shouldn't be unless the acceleration lane is short. Drivers entering should get up to speed and merge when the acceleration lane ends. Of course, drivers on the highway should slow down or move over to let those on, not as a matter of legality but as a matter of courtosy to fellow drivers.

At a cloverleaf, especially the "weave" part in the middle, if there is an entering vehicle trying to merge left and an exiting vehicle merging right, the exiting driver should absolutely slow down. He has to slow down anyway to take his exit, right? The entering driver is trying to speed up to merge in, right? No need to cut him off and make him slow down, which means he'll have to drift into the right lane far below the speed limit which impedes traffic flow.

Posted by: thetan | May 27, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I scored 95%, however, one of the questions has an incorrect answer

8. You may pass on the right of another vehicle when:
A. When traveling on a multi-lane highway carrying two or more lanes of traffic in the same direction
B. The other vehicle is making or about to make a left turn, when a lane is provided to pass on the right
C. Both answers are correct

It claims that C is right but in many states it is keep right, and pass left.

I chose B to be correct, which is the correct rule for many states.

Posted by: yell53 | May 27, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

HAHAHA!! Someone had to TELL US that? It's pretty obvious -- what I want to know is HOW did these morons get their licenses????

Posted by: bronxace | May 27, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

If Metro Bus drivers had to pass this, we'd have no busses!

Posted by: seraphina21 | May 27, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I scored 100%.

DC drivers might do better on this test if the DC police would start ticketing drivers who violate traffic laws. I see drivers breaking the law all the time (probably a dozen times a day at least) and I have never seen the police pull anyone over and give them a ticket.

Posted by: robwilli | May 27, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

I got 100% but I agree with yell53 that the question re passing on the right could be either B or C. I wonder if laws relating to passing on the right on multi-lane roads is a jursidictional thing and that accounts for the discrepancy? Anyway, great quiz and I'm forwarding it to my sister, who drives like a freakin' maniac. Maybe she'll learn somthing.

Posted by: 7900rmc | May 27, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

100%, and I learned to drive in New York. Go figure.

Posted by: ceefer66 | May 27, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

The only reason the Maryland drivers did better was because they were using their cell phones the whole time as a lifeline for answers. That's the only explanation for why they're all on the phone when they drive. "Okay, the light turned red, what do I do?"

Posted by: blankspace | May 27, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Took the time to take the test, but they want my name and email. No thanks!

The above posters are incorrect about number 8.

Posted by: dkf747 | May 27, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Around Chicago & its suburbs, you commonly see gas tanker trucks 10 feet off other's bumpers doing 80 mph.

---

Umm, not really...

Does it happen? Yeah, probably happens everywhere. But is it common especially in Chicago? My experience growing up there and visiting often tells me no.

Posted by: HydroxCookies | May 27, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Ceefer: Me, too! (On both counts.)

We New Yorkers always get a bad rap. (To paraphrase the eternal Rodney Dangerfield, we don't get no respect.)

In reality, the driver education training I had to take and pass in NY was definitely more rigorous than what my kids have had to do here (in VA).

IMHO, the statistical figures cited for the present day are probably greatly influenced by social factors: Economic status, US native-born vs. non-native-born, etc.

Posted by: nan_lynn | May 27, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Ceefer: Me, too! (On both counts.)

We New Yorkers always get a bad rap. (To paraphrase the eternal Rodney Dangerfield, we don't get no respect.)

In reality, the driver education training I had to take and pass in NY was definitely more rigorous than what my kids have had to do here (in VA).

IMHO, the statistical figures cited for the present day are probably greatly influenced by social factors: Economic status, US native-born vs. non-native-born, etc.

Posted by: nan_lynn | May 27, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Apologies for the double post! Computer giving me fits today...

Posted by: nan_lynn | May 27, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Apologies for the double post! Computer gremlins out in force today...

Posted by: nan_lynn | May 27, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Although DC is neither a city or state, I agree with thetan, it is really misleading to compare the District with the states. It would be more interesting to see how the major urban areas would stack up to each other.

Posted by: mmurphy6 | May 27, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

I have a number of friends in NYC who have not driven a car since the day they went for their driving test. I know many New Yorkers who have never even bothered to get a license because they never even thought of driving or owning a car. Having a car in The City is just more hassle than it is worth.

In Kansas, on the other hand, owning a car is more important than owning shoes. Driving is essential to survival there.

So, is it any surprise that many New Yorkers don't know much about driving cars? Most of them are not too skilled at piloting ferries or airliners either. I really don't think they lose sleep over it.

Posted by: Geezle | May 27, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

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