Taking a road trip with Grandma soon? You may want to let her drive. Chances are, she's got sharper smart road smarts than you and your fancy young brain!
A new report by CheapCarInsurance.net shows that boomers aged 60 to 69 were the most likely to pass its written driving exam, with 55 percent of the age group passing the test the company sent out. They also had the highest score of all the age groups eligible, averaging 78.1 percent. In second place? People 70 and older, with a pass rate of 50 percent and and average test score of 77.8 percent.
Scoring the lowest were drivers who you'd think would be the most up to speed on their driving skills, given that they got their license less than 4 years ago. But only 29.8 percent of people under 20 passed the test, with an average score of 69.2 percent. Of drivers aged 20 to 29, 39.2 percent passed the test, scoring an average of 71 percent.
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3,500 people took the quiz, which Eric Snapper, project manager at CheapCarInsurance.net said was compiled based on real driver exam questions.
"After collecting nearly 500 questions from across the country, we put together about 50 of our own questions that we felt weren't necessarily state specific and applied to a broader audience," said Snapper. "The user is put through a random sample of 23 of those questions. That's about half of what a typical written test might be."
"One of the most interesting things that came out of this was the increase in passing rates and average score with older respondents," noted Snapper. "An alternative outcome could have been that the further you are from having taken your initial tests you may forget the particulars, but it appears that experience wins overall."
Seth Birnbaum, CEO of EverQuote, was surprised that boomers did so much better than younger drivers who may have more recently taken their official driving exams.
"It is surprising to see that baby boomers scored higher on this report, especially since millennials are the ones who more recently had to take and pass the driving tests themselves," said Birnbaum.
"There are tons of variables to consider but one that immediately jumps out to me is that boomers have more years of experience behind the wheel and are more likely to have encountered a variety of driving situations," said Birnbaum.
The next question to ask is: Why did millennials do so poorly? Come on. You guys are the best at everything! Unfortunately, the answer here points to the likelihood of bad habits — like checking their smartphones while behind the wheel.
"According to data pulled from our safe driving app, EverDrive, millennials admit [more] to checking their phone during every or most drives compared to older generations," said Birnbaum. "Additionally, millennials are less likely to take safe driving help with less than 40 percent [stating] they would allow a mobile app to prevent phone use while driving, while nearly 60 percent of baby boomers would allow it."
Another intriguing finding of the report was that women were slightly more likely to pass the test, and to score higher: 44.8 percent of women passed the test versus 42 percent of men; and they scored one point higher: 74 percent (women) versus 73 percent (men). This could be partly chalked up to the fact that more women took the quiz than men (53 percent women versus 47 percent men), but this is a trend that Robert Dillman, lead instructor at Nevo Driving Academy has found to be consistent in his experience.
"The gender topic is a frequent theme in my line of work, [and] I do agree with the findings of this test," said Dillman. "While these trends even out with practice over time, initially I've found that females tend to understand complex concepts faster; leading to more practice time performing the proper maneuvers. Males tend to understand complex concepts at a slower rate; leading to less practice time. Once both genders understand the concepts and are able to consistently perform, they even out from a basic skills standpoint."
Women may have performed better than men, and boomers may have millennials beat, but bear in mind that no one was exactly acing CheapCarInsurance's test. The truth of the matter is: this is tricky stuff and and we could all benefit from taking refresher courses on a regular basis — even if they're not required.
"In most states, new drivers can obtain their license at 16 years old, and never take another driving course," said Dillman. "If we applied this logic to any other skill; it would be laughable. Bad habits and complacency [become] compounded by minimal training, leaving most drivers much less proficient than they think. I believe all drivers should participate in a refresher course on an annual basis. Traffic laws, vehicle technologies, and distractions are updated and introduced at such a rapid rate these days."
71-year-old Meigs Glidewell took a refresher course after getting a ticket and realized, just 15 minutes into the class that she was "an extremely inept driver."
"That class was in 1980, and I still benefit from it," said Glidewell.
Glidewell said she also keeps up to date by checking out driving books from the library, citing "The Book of Expert Driving" by E.D. Fales as the best book she's come across on the subject.
There are also some apps you can download to help keep your driving safety measures in check.
Last fall, Liberty Mutual Insurance launched Highway Hero, a free app that racks and scores driving behavior based on factors including acceleration, hard braking, and phone usage. After the ride is over, the app provides feedback and users can track their progress, and also see how they stack up against other local drivers on city leaderboards and win achievement badges based on their performance.
The DMV recommends several apps, including LifeSaver, which blocks the ability to operate your phone while driving. This app also uses GPS to send a response to those who've texted you once you've arrived at your destination to give them the head's up that you made it there okay.
AT&T's DriveMode app blocks phone calls and texting while driving, and alerts those texting you that you're driving and can't reply. This app can be set up to activate once a driver has reached 15mph, and is a great one for parents who are concerned that their teen may be turning the app off, as they can request notifications concerning app deactivation, or change of settings.
Another free choice that's great for the driver determined to better his or her skills is TrueMotion, which gives you a "trip score" — after every drive, the app rates your performance, zeroing in on moments where your driving was less than perfect.