May 27, 2010 / 7:45 PM / 9 years ago

Many drivers lack road rules' knowledge: poll

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - About 20 percent of U.S. drivers, roughly 38 million people, lack basic knowledge about the rules of the road and would fail a written test if they had to take it again, according to a new poll.

The online survey, which included 20 questions from state driving exams as well as questions about distracting habits such as texting, showed many drivers were confused about standard driving practices such as safe following distances.

And 85 percent did not know what to do when approaching a steady yellow traffic light.

“American drivers need to make safety a top priority and be aware of the rules of the road at all times,” said Wade Bontrager of GMAC Insurance, which conducted the poll.

Drivers in Kansas scored the highest marks in the survey of 5,202 Americans across the United States with an average score of 82.3 percent, followed by Oregon, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.

New York came in last, with New Jersey, Washington, D.C., California and Rhode Island also in the bottom five.

The Northeast region of the country had the highest failure rate at 25.1 percent and overall lowest scores, while drivers in the Midwest region had the best test results.

Age and sex also played a part in driving knowledge. Men over 45 years old had the highest average test marks, and overall scored higher than women.

Women were more likely than men to do other things while driving, including talking to other passengers, putting on cosmetics, reading, eating and chatting on a cellphone.

But only five percent of people questioned in the poll said they text while behind the wheel.

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