We do NOT have the nation’s dumbest drivers

Actual SC car, seen parked behind a Lizard's Thicket near my home. You may recognize this as a former header image.

Seems like everywhere I’ve lived in this country, I’ve heard the complaint that that place, wherever it was, had the dumbest, worst drivers anywhere.

You’ve no doubt heard that about South Carolina drivers. Perhaps you’ve said it. (For that matter, maybe it’s been said about you.)

But finally, I see, someone (GMAC Insurance) has decided to quantify it, and we are NOT the dumbest. Not even close. In fact, we come in 30th out of 51. Where are the dumbest drivers (measured by a written test of the sort they give to applicants for a learner’s permit)? New York.

And the smartest are in Kansas. This is probably due to the fact that their written test is one of the hardest. I’ve taken drivers’ tests in several states, but Kansas was the only place where I had to retake the test after flunking it once. (And no, it wasn’t stupid stuff. It was stuff like, do your headlights need to illuminate the road for 400 feet or 600 feet. Esoteric stuff. But it sure made me study the book before going back.)

17 thoughts on “We do NOT have the nation’s dumbest drivers

  1. Michael P.

    But we are probably #1 when it comes to cars who run red lights. Since moving to SC I’ve come to realize that the red light does not mean stop, it means the next 3 cars and/or all cars within the next 10 seconds can continue through the intersection.

  2. Brad

    By the way, I took the test myself, and scored an 85 (17 correct out of 20). That made me feel pretty bad until I saw that was better than the average in Kansas.

    Yeah, baby!

  3. Phillip

    This only pertains to “dumb” in the sense of being able to pass the written driving test and to know the rules of the road. SC drivers may well know the rules but many choose to ignore them (call it “nullification” of a sort if you like). Personally I mostly just observe bad driving here in Cola, and especially around USC, which I attribute mostly to students and to using cellphone/texting while driving.

    But I also think some of the SC driving is attributable to the in-car cameras they now have for Nascar races. People get used to that and think that’s how close you should follow on the freeway, that’s how you should pass, and above all, treat the road as a race where letting a car into your lane when he’s signaling means you’re not “beating” him.

    Re “rules”—I’m sure the driver I saw just a few hours ago making a LEFT turn on a red light at an Old Shandon intersection where there is a crash at least once a month…he probably could pass the test question to the effect that you’re not supposed to do that. But if you’re on the phone or just decide to do it anyway…

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    LOL, literally, @ the photo.

    Just finished driving to Maine, and trust me, If you think SC drivers are NASCAR-style, come check out Massachusetts. One friend who lives in Boston says he has the right of way to any unoccupied space on the road.

    Michael P.–I am from SC, but my husband is not, and when we moved here in 98, I counseled him to always look both ways before proceeding on a new green light. He said that saved him several times in the first week! Then last summer we went back to Chicago, and he had to get back in the habit of stopping on a yellow light. Chicago has cameras, and people know it and stop in plenty of time.

    @Phillip–you can go left on red in Aiken at the parkways downtown…..

  5. Doug Ross

    One dumb thing we do as a state is NOT require the elderly to take drivers tests after the age of 75. It should be mandatory at 75 and 80 and every two years after that.

    This is one situation where the government should do MORE.

  6. Kathryn Fenner

    @ Doug– why just the elderly? Plenty of soccer moms could use a refresher.

  7. Joe Pinner

    I do not find most SC drivers bad drivers although some may be “dumb” when it comes to testing and bet most do not know that you never change lanes going through an intersection or that you should turn into the lane nearest you and then make movess over to other lanes. I do find drivers who run red lights dangerous and that’s why drivers should glance both ways before starting into an intersection after the light turns green and actually as they are approaching an intersection as the “runners” could do some real damage to ones mind and body and machine plus a police chase could be in progress ala LA. And to some drivers who should know better, please turn on low beam headlights when it rains to make yourself visible. You may be real clever in being able to see but it is difficult to be seen AND these really thoughtless types who do not realize you should turn on your low beam headlights before sunset and certainly when it begins to get dark and can not be seen when in a line of vehicles who do have their lights on. If you are involved in a crash and you didn’t have your lights on, I would hope you would be fined heavily if you survive. There is a case that presently is centered on whether lights were on or off at the time of the crash. Think, people! And when you enter your vehicle, do buckle up and do sit up so you can see over the dash and hood so you can see the shoulders of the road and keep your vehicle in the right lane…geez! If you think leaning way back or sitting low is cool, you could end up being real cool and unfortunately take others with you. And if you just happen to be a short person, get a higher seat so you can properly control your driving. Oh, just a thought, a license and insurance would be nice when you get behind the wheel! Sorry…couldn’t stop once I got started but I do feel better…the old curmudgeon Joe Pinner

  8. Nick Nielsen

    Scored an 85 myself. Would have scoreda 90, but I applied European rules to the passing on the right question.

    Didn’t you know you can go through the red light if you saw it turn red?

    Kathryn, you can’t make those left turns any more. They apparently had too many wrecks and have hung “No Turn On Red” signs all over downtown Aiken.

    The single biggest thing this state could do to prevent road rage (at least mine) is to amend the law to require people on freeways to drive in the right lane unless they are actually passing somebody. Barring that, they need to teach drivers that “Slower traffic keep right” means that if somebody wants to pass, you move over.

    Sorry. I drive a thousand miles a week. Hot button.

  9. j

    Joe, Great to see your post. You don’t have that problem when you come to LM. See you the first Saturday in Aug. Take care and drive safely. Buddy

  10. Kathryn Fenner

    I know about the lane-changing one–I flunked my first road test at age 15 years 15 days (or whatever the shortest legal time was) for that very reason–Thanks, Aiken County Deputy Sergeant Day!

    and another thing, you young people don’t realize that you have crisp vision and whip-quick reflexes, but even middle-aged folks don’t…but we have better insurance (thanks, Kathy Bates, Fried Green Tomatoes.)

  11. Libb

    Thanks to a work contract(and I do mean thanks) I commute from “town” to the badlands of Harbison a few days a week. So I’ve seen my fair share of bad driving and agree that cell phones/texting are generally involved.

    My favorite was the young lady wobbling between lanes as we merged on to 126 from Huger. As I passed her I noticed she was steering the car w/ her elbows while applying makeup w/ one hand and talking on her cellphone w/ the other. I kid you not!

  12. bud

    My kids recently took the permit test for SC and that exact question about the headlights was on it. Perhaps there’s a standardization among the states. In any event the permit test is much harder than when I took it a gazillion years ago.

  13. Kathryn Fenner

    Mom and Dad still live in Aiken, and said they repealed the change, so now you *can* turn left on red again–the ‘rents don’t go downtown anymore–the bypass is their (inexplicable) route of choice, so they might be mistaken, but I was just at York and Richland a week ago and there was no sign forbidding a continued turn.

  14. Nick Nielsen

    That’s one of the few that doesn’t. I don’t usually go downtown much myself, just come in on US 1 and head on down Whiskey Road. York/Chesterfield, York/Park, and Park/Chesterfield, at least, all have the No Turn on Left signs.

    That change really knackered things until they fixed it. I liked it, because it made left turns so much easier. But too many people were too used to the two lights being synchronized and didn’t pay attention. The far light would go green and, even though the near light was red, they went. I saw nine wrecks the week after the change, every one of them for that reason.

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