Do We Know How to Drive and How Much Does It Matter?

In a story that was making news before the Memorial Day weekend, GMAC Insurance polled 5,524 licensed drivers and asked them 20 questions from the tests given by various state motor vehicle administrations around the country. There are a zillion statistics offered by this study but the one that is getting everyone’s attention is that approximately 33 million of us would fail a written drivers test if they took it today.

The lowest test scores were found in the Northeast. Drivers in the Washington, D.C. rank the second worst in the country, barely losing out to New Jersey for the dubious title of the state with the least knowledgeable drivers. Maryland and Virginia do not fare much better: Maryland ranks 41st; Virginia ranks 43rd.

This study is causing a good deal of faux angst in the media. Local newspapers are lamenting how poor their state ranks, leading to a lot of talk about how we have to make drivers’ education a national priority.

Before we all get too worked up, it might be worthwhile to do a study to find out how many accidents are caused by the failure to understand the rules of the road. I cannot tell you how few vehicle collision cases our law firm has handled where the crash was caused by the at-fault driver not understanding the rules of the roadway. Instead, 99% of the car wreck cases we see are caused by simple negligence unrelated to knowing the rule of the road.

What would make our roads safer is driving bigger, safer cars. But with gas approaching $4 a gallon, the incentive for bigger cars is going the other way.(Smaller cars can be made safer, but it increases the cost to make the vehicle, often beyond what car manufacturers and consumers believe is economically viable.) Beyond that and cracking down more on drunk drivers (which, regrettably, we are not seeing after so much progress in the ’80s), the way to decrease car and truck accidents is to encourage people to be more careful and more risk adverse. But no one is sure quite how to do that.

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  • Shannon

    While uneducated drivers may not actually cause accidents based on their lack of knowledge, they do cause significant frustration to those of us who do know and practice the rules of the road. This frustration is what often leads to “road rage” and other aggressive driving, which, in turn, leads to accidents.

    There is an additional element that is not often discussed, but is just as important – the willful disregard of basic common sense principles. I’m quite sure that people know they’re doing something wrong, but they just don’t care. For example, if you miss your turn, you shouldn’t just back up and take it anyway. You go to the next one and turn around. This is so basic, but so often not practiced.

    I strongly feel that everyone should be required to take a written test each time they renew their license. I also think that a stronger police presence to enforce these rules would be the incentive needed. The additional costs for police would be balanced by the increased revenue generated from sitations.

  • Drivers have to be given training or general awareness about how the truck and its engine work and related aspects. Also campaign for safe and fuel economic driving can be conducted to create awareness.

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