Getty Images / Scott Olson
A traffic light controls the flow of vehicles and pedestrians April 20, 2005 near downtown Chicago, Illinois. According to a survey, the nation's traffic signals are mostly inefficient, leading to unnecessary delays, wasted fuel and increased air pollution as vehicles constantly stop and go.
We know inattentive driving is a major problem. But a new study suggests many drivers wouldn't know what to do even if they were paying attention.
GMAC Insurance conducted a survey of 5,202 licensed drivers to determine their habits and how well they know basic traffic rules.
The study found that one in five licensed drivers "may be unfit for roads." The national test average dropped from a passing rate of 76.6 percent in 2009 and 78.1 percent in 2008.
Below 70 percent is considered a failing score.
Yellow lights were particularly confusing for many drivers. Eight-five percent said they didn't know what to do when approaching a yellow, according to the survey.
Keep this in mind the next time you step into a crosswalk: one of the test's answer options is to speed up to beat the light. The correct answer is to stop if it's safe to do so.
Another problem: Many respondents could not identify a safe following distance, which helps explain the popularity of tailgating.
But there's more to driving than answering questions about it, so GMAC also asked about drivers' habits. One in four admitted to talking on the phone, eating or changing radio settings while driving.
It wasn't all bad. Nearly all surveyed drivers know what to do when an emergency vehicle with flashing lights approaches. They also knew the meaning of a solid yellow line.
Only five percent of drivers admitted to texting while driving. More surprisingly, someone as self-involved as a person who would text and drive volunteered to take this survey.
GMAC also noted that the following actions were reported significantly higher among females than males: Engaging in conversation with passengers, selecting songs on an iPod or CD, adjusting the radio, talking on a cell phone, eating, applying make-up and reading.
Reading? Let's do something about that problem, right now.
New Yorkers (70.0) were the worst and Kansas (82.3) topped the list.