The next time you're stopped in traffic, look to your right. And then to your left. At least one of you could not pass a written driver's test. Nearly half of the 500 drivers who took a quiz of 20 driver's test questions failed to get a passing score of 80 percent, according to results released today by CarInsurance.com. The questions, drawn from state practice tests, covered basics such as signs and rights of way. The questions missed most often involved when to stop for school buses and pedestrians. (You can take the Driver's License Quiz for yourself to see how you compare.) Women averaged a score of 78 percent, compared with 71 percent for men. And experience seems to help: Drivers under age 40 scored an average of 67 percent correct, and those over 40 scored an average of 79 percent. Only three drivers had perfect scores: two women and one man.
A brief history of driver's licenses
The driver's license is almost as old as the car itself. It is widely accepted that Karl Benz, of Mercedes-Benz fame and the man credited with inventing the modern automobile, was issued the first driver's license in 1888 in Mannheim, Germany. In the United States, the first driver's licenses were simple identification cards. A license could be had for 25 cents, and in many states drivers could send away for one by mail. There were no required skills or knowledge tests. (Here's a look at Henry Ford's driver's license, circa 1919.) According to the Federal Highway Administration, Missouri and Massachusetts issued the first driver's licenses in 1903 but didn't start testing drivers' skills until years later. Massachusetts waited until 1920 and Missouri started testing in 1952. South Dakota was the last holdout, waiting until 1954 to require drivers to have licenses. It introduced testing in 1959.
U.S testing is comparatively easy
In the last decade, graduated driver licensing systems have changed the process of getting a license for every teen driver in the country, but the test itself has basically stayed the same.