Do Drivers Actually Know the Rules of the Road? This Survey Says Not Always

As teenagers and adults, one of the easiest ways to get around is with a personal vehicle. For those who need, or prefer, cars to get around, it’s a given that you need to learn and understand various driving laws to keep yourself and others safe. But, a recent survey from Progressive asked if drivers know the laws of the road, and the answer may surprise and disappoint you.

Progressive’s rules of the road survey

Many people probably know from experience that not all drivers know the rules of the road, either by observing a lack of turn signals when changing lanes, turning left or right at a red light when they’re not supposed to, or any number of actions. With this in mind, Progressive surveyed 599 American drivers to determine how well they knew various driving laws. Let’s dive into what Progressive’s rules of the road survey found: 

Do you know what a school crossing sign looks like?

Nearly every town and city will have school crossing signs in areas where drivers are approaching a school zone. Yet, Progressive’s rules of the road survey results indicate that only 65% of drivers can recognize a school crossing sign. 

There are almost 238.2 million licensed drivers in the United States, reports Unbate. That means that about 35%, or 83.37 million drivers in America, don’t recognize a school sign crossing.

The good news is that 94% of drivers recognize the sign when a lane ends, which leaves 6% for those who don’t. While that’s a relatively small percentage, it still means there are about 14.3 million people who couldn’t tell you if the lane is ending by looking at a sign with the symbol, which is reasonably easy to understand.

The left lane is for passing

Good drivers know that when you come up to a slower vehicle, you wait to pass in the left lane and ensure you have enough clearance between you and the vehicle you passed before returning to the right lane.

However, only 16% of drivers reported using the left lane for passing 100% of the time. That’s only about 38 million licensed drivers out of 238.2 million licensed drivers who use the left lane properly.

“Thirty-four percent of drivers say they sometimes intentionally stay in the left lane, and when asked if they ever stay in the left lane to punish another driver’s poor behavior, 7% admitted to doing so regularly,” Progressive added.

Why do some drivers not know the rules of the road?

A young woman driving a car and following the rules of the road
Young Woman Driving | Jan Baborák via Unsplash

Is Your State 1 of the 10 Most Dangerous States for Drivers?

One reason drivers don’t know the road rules is that they don’t keep up with changes. They believe that the driving laws they learned will never change, says Progressive. One example of this is that many drivers learned in driving school or class that they needed to keep their hands at the 10 and 2 positions on the wheel, but that changed to the 9 and 3 positions to account for airbag deployment. Only 20% of licensed drivers know about this rule change.

According to Progressive, another assumption licensed drivers have is that driving laws apply elsewhere, and they don’t take the time to look up local laws when they visit or move to a new state or region. Some states allow drivers to drive in the left lane unless they’re going below the speed limit, while other states or regions bar drivers from the left lane unless they’re passing a slower vehicle.

Another study from National Academies discovered that people have an unrealistic view of their driving competency and believe they are better drivers than they are. One part of the study showed that male pickup truck drivers claimed to follow the rules 100% of the time but fell short in proving knowledge of all the rules and were the group most likely to report having an accident in the last five years.

What You Can Do

One thing drivers can do is to assume they don’t know all the driving laws, that the rules have changed, and to practice their skills every time they drive. Another action is to look up driving laws when you move to a new state or region and adapt your driving habits accordingly.