The University of Calgary survey showed only 11.4% of respondents correctly answered at least 25 of 30 driving questions - the minimal score for a pass. The average score was 22, with more veteran drivers and females scoring lower.
It's a troubling result, said Sabreena Anowar, a graduate student at the Schulich School of Engineering which developed the survey. "We should be alarmed because there are people on the road unaware of the rules," she said.
Some of the slippiest stretches for respondents was recognizing a bicycle crossing sign, the meaning of solid road lines and when school zones are in effect, said Anowar. "On school zone times only 20 to 30 percent got it correct," she said.
According to the survey of 2,394 Albertans, those who did pass the written exam were involved in fewer accidents.
But Scott Wilson of the Alberta Motor Association, which commissioned the study, said low marks don't necessarily equate to dangerous driving. "Not everybody's a poor driver, they just have a poor understanding of the rules," he said.
However, he did say that it reflects an overly cavalier driving culture. "We tend to forget about what driving really is and how complex and risky it is," said Wilson.
Results of similar studies in the U.S. and Europe, he said, show Albertans are no worse in their understanding of road techniques. Even so, Wilson said the study shows the need for some kind of mandatory refresher course on driving basics, whether it be through online games, videos or other means. "It would tie the completion of that course to the renewal of a licence every five to 10 years," he said, adding testing hasn't been shown to make people safer drivers.
Currently, for those with a licence, there's no requirement for driver re-testing unless dictated by physical deterioration. Alberta Transportation has no plan for any mandatory reviews, said spokeswoman Heather Kaszuba, but the province does encourage volunteer refreshers. "No other jurisdiction has mandatory re-testing," she said.
SOURCE - Calgary Sun