The 2010 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test indicates that nearly one in five licensed drivers -- roughly 38 million Americans -- would not pass a written drivers' test exam if taken today.
Kansas drivers ranked first in the nation with an 82.3% average score, while New York drivers ranked last, with a 70% average score.
The sixth annual survey, conducted by TNS, 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.
Consumers can test their driving smarts at www.gmacinsurance.com, where they can take the survey, play a driving game and challenge friends to top their score. Facebook users can take the National Drivers Test Facebook quiz and challenge their friends, and Twitter users can follow the Drivers Test Twitter page for updates on state rankings and tidbits on safe driving habits.
The Twitter feed is new this year, with a pre-launch campaign and a state-by-state countdown specific to Twitter, says Wade Bontrager, senior vice president, GMAC Insurance. "We've also redesigned our Facebook app and upped our overall Facebook presence to include richer, more entertaining content that will drive more sharing and online conversation," he tells Marketing Daily. "We've added more content that people will want to share."
In addition to social media marketing, the campaign will reach consumers through the insurance provider's network of 8,000 agents by providing them with a range of online assets they can use with their own clientele, Bontrager says.
The study indicates that a number of licensed Americans continue to lack knowledge of basic rules of the road; the national average score decreased to 76.2% this year from 76.6% in 2009. About 85% could not identify the correct action to take when approaching a steady yellow traffic light, and many remained confused by safe following distances.
"It's our hope that this test will keep safe driving and the rules of the road top of mind with drivers at all times," Bontrager says. "If it results in one less accident, then it's a huge success."
When analyzed regionally, the results reveal that 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%) and had the highest failure rate (25.1%). The Midwest region had the highest average test scores (77.5%) and the lowest failure rates (11.9%).
Results also indicate that the older the driver, the higher the score. Males over age 45 earned the highest average test score. Males also outperformed females overall in terms of average score (78.1% male versus 74.4% female) and failure rates (24% female versus 18.1% male).
Additional questions from the survey reveal that drivers conduct a variety of distracting behaviors behind the wheel. About one in four participants admitted to driving while talking on a cell phone, eating and adjusting the radio or selecting songs on an iPod. However, only 5% reported that 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.