Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Survey says drivers unaware of laws, other road users

Posted by on June 6th, 2006 at 7:29 am

GMAC Insurance just released results of their 2006 National Drivers Test. They polled 5,288 people and gave them a 20 question test about basic rules of the road. They also asked them about their driving behavior.

The results of the test were pretty sad. 1 in 11 Americans – about 18 million people – failed. It’s a pretty simple test. You can take it yourself. I don’t drive much but I still managed to get 90% (you need 70% to pass).

The good news is that Oregon and Washington scored highest in the nation for the second year in a row.

So cyclists around here have nothing to worry about right? Not exactly.

Unfortunately the survey also found that of the 5,288 polled, 42% eat while driving and 40% chat on cell phones while driving. Among the notorious 18-24 age bracket, 62% eat and a whopping 71% use cell phones.

Here’s a disturbing excerpt from the GMAC press release:

“The study shows drivers deliberately disregard pedestrians and treat driving as the new “down time,” where they catch up on the day’s activities, diverting their attention from the road.”

“Roughly 1 in 3 drivers don’t usually stop for pedestrians – even if they’re in a crosswalk or at a yellow light…drivers deliberately disregard pedestrians and treat driving as the new “down time,” where they catch up on the day’s activities, diverting their attention from the road.

As bad and scary as that sounds, I don’t think we as cyclists can take the high road on this one. I wonder what a survey like this would reveal if they polled cyclists?

I have to admit, I’ve used my cell phone while riding once or twice, and I’ve eaten a sandwich or two while pedaling around the neighborhood. And what about messengers? They use their phones while riding all the time.

How would cyclists do in a survey like this?

[Hat tip to KGW.com]

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  • Russell June 6, 2006 at 8:05 am

    100% and I haven’t driven in years. As bad as a driver as I was, the 1 in 11 thing had me convinced I’d fail. I’d like to meet one of the failures.

    I’d like to see the “bike test” too. I got passed last year by a guy taking a soft curve at full speed with no hands while using a cell phone on the mixed path by OMSI. I was simultaneously impressed by his skill and stupidity.

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  • Jim F. June 6, 2006 at 8:45 am

    Wow. I drive once a week, if that, and I got a 95%. Anyone who can’t pass such a simple test should not be on the road.

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  • brock June 6, 2006 at 9:45 am

    Yeah, 100% here. They should give a test like this every time a license renewal is up, and less than 80% means no license for a month.

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  • Jasun Wurster June 6, 2006 at 12:18 pm


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  • organic brian June 6, 2006 at 12:33 pm

    Gave up my car in 1999, and got 100%. Maybe I’m a statutes geek.

    I can’t comprehend people holding phones up to their heads when driving / riding. Don’t they know about headsets? You can start a call, leave the phone in a pocket, and both hands are free. I’m fairly sure there is an earpiece headset available for any cell phone.

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  • Jon McAuley June 6, 2006 at 1:51 pm

    Allstate also has a best drivers rankings. These rankings are by City; Portland comes in at 89 of 200. Allstate ranks are based on property damage claims rather than GMAC’s drivers test. When a car runs over a person there is probably little property damage, except to the car; so bikes and peds may not factor in much with the Allstate rankings. Nevertheless, interesting data.

    Check out:


    Ride Safe,

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  • Tree June 6, 2006 at 7:12 pm

    I also got 100%. I bike commute 5 days a week year round and walk and bike whenever I can. I drive about 500 mi per year. I find it hard to believe that 1 in 3 drivers stop for peds. More like 1 in 30.

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  • Matt G. June 7, 2006 at 11:18 am

    100%. I drive quite a bit (5K plus per year) compared to many riders on the forum, but this is not so much about practice as common sense and a good understanding of driving laws. Most people don’t care because they drive so much and they rarely have trouble (statistically speaking), so they continue to drive in the ways that are most comfortable to them(but not necessarily safe). If you could steal a candy bar every day and get away with it for 10 years, would you stop doing it just because it’s wrong? Not likely for most people.

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  • Matt Picio June 11, 2006 at 12:31 am

    I also got 100%. I used to drive regularly, but now only drive once or twice a week on average.

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