Washington Motorists Replace New Yorkers as Most ‘Unfit’

Washington, D.C., drivers are the least knowledgeable in the U.S. about the rules of the road, a distinction held by New York state motorists in 2009 and 2010, according to a study by GMAC Insurance.

Drivers in the nation’s capital scored an average of 71.8 percent on tests, the insurer said. New Yorkers ranked 45th, scoring 75.3 percent. Kansans ranked No. 1 with 82.9 percent. The national average for the test was 77.9 percent, with below 70 considered failing, according to a statement today from GMAC Insurance, the carrier that American Capital Acquisition Corp. bought from GMAC Inc.

The national results show that almost one in five drivers, or 36.9 million U.S. motorists, “cannot meet the basic requirements” to get a license, according to the statement. The test of 20 questions from licensing exams was given to 5,130 drivers from all 50 states and the capital.

“Taking the test brings a little bit of attention to something that people don’t generally think about,” said Scott Eckman, GMAC Insurance’s chief marketing officer, in an interview. “If we can have people just think twice, it may make them think about rules and maybe pay attention.”

Eighty-five percent of drivers couldn’t identify the correct action to take when approaching a steady yellow traffic light. Correct answer: “Stop if it is safe to do so,” according to a version of the test on GMAC Insurance’s website.

‘Traffic Is Difficult’

Some of the test results may be explained by people learning to drive from family members, Jean Guenguem, co-owner of Dexterity Driving School in the capital, said in a phone interview. Drivers should brush up on the rules every two years, he said.

“The traffic is difficult” in Washington, Guenguem said. New York motorists follow the rules less than Washington drivers, he said.

The national average rose from 76.2 percent in 2010. Mississippi, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland and Hawaii motorists ranked behind New York. The test was given online by the insurer through a research company to licensed drivers, ages 16 to 65.

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