Today’s news:

New York motorists get an F on nationwide drivers exam

For the second consecutive year, New York state motorists have ranked last in a nationwide survey of motorists’ knowledge of information found on state drivers exams.

The GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test said New York state motorists averaged 70 percent — failing — in answering 20 questions. Kansas’ drivers were No. 1, scoring 82.3 percent in the exams.

New Jersey motorists were next-to-last with an average score of 70.5, followed by the District of Columbia at 71.9, California at 73.3, Rhode Island at 73.8, Hawaii at 74.8, West Virginia at 74.8, Kentucky at 74.9 and Louisiana at 74.1.

“It’s discouraging to see that overall average test scores are lower than last year,” said Wade Bontrager, senior vice president of GMAC Insurance. “American drivers need to make safety a top priority and be aware of the rules of the road at all times.”

The tests found that nearly one in five licensed drivers, or 38 million Americans, would fail a written drivers test examination now.

“When analyzed regionally, the results reveal that drivers in the Northeast may not be as road savvy as their Midwestern counterparts,” the survey said. “The Northeast had the lowest average test scores (74.9) and the highest failure rate (25.1 percent). The Midwest had the highest average test score rate (77.5 percent) as well as the lowest failure rate (11.9 percent).

Males over 45 had the highest average test scores. Males also out-performed females in average scoring (78.1 percent) versus 74.4 for females and failure rates (34 percent for females versus 18.1 percent for males)

GMAC examiners said the following were questions that confused drivers:

• A total of 79.3 percent could not properly identify a typical safe following distance from the car in front of them.

• Eighty-five percent did not know the answer as to what to do at a traffic light displaying a steady yellow signal (stop if it is safe to do so).

• Significantly more women than men said they talked to other passengers or on a cell phone while driving, adjusted the radio or ate. Women also said they sometimes applied make-up.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at or phone at 718-260-4536.

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