BY CHARLES MEMMINGER – A national study has found that Hawaii has the worst drivers in the country.

That is to the surprise of absolutely no one ever forced to follow a slow-moving car up and over the Pali in the left lane (i.e. the “fast” lane) while the vehicle’s left-turn signal blinked on and off for 12.3 miles or anyone who has had to swerve out of the way of an oncoming car in “your lane” because the driver was distracted eating a plate lunch.

I disagree with most national studies and polls that put Hawaii last in categories like “best beaches,” “most relaxed citizens,” “sunniest weather,” “tanniest people” or “largest insects.” However, I’ve got to give props to the 2011 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test results which place Hawaii drivers dead last behind states like Maryland (known for Baltimore’s “McKeldin The Mad” Beltway”) and New Jersey (where throwing a dead body out of a car is not considered a moving violation but merely “littering.”)

The study curiously lists Washington D.C. as a state but thankfully lists its inhabitants as the 51st worst drivers in the country, so Hawaii got off lucky there. (If the study included Guam and Puerto Rico, Hawaii might not have even made a top 50 finish.)

It’s always been a mystery to me – in a state like Hawaii where drivers rarely have to deal with snow drifts, black ice or armadillos on the roadways – why do island drivers suck so badly.

I mean, what is so hard about driving around on sunny, mostly dry streets devoid of heavily armored rodents?  (Armadillos are a notorious road hazard in Texas where they nap on the highways and when passed over by a car get spooked and jump straight up into the vehicle’s undercarriage making the driver think he was hit by an improvised explosive device. Nevertheless, Texas managed to come in 33rd in the bad driver ratings, just in front of California where the biggest hazard facing the state’s 25 million drivers are the state’s 25 million drivers.)

From looking over the state-by-state results of the GMAC study, it seems that the worst drivers come from small states and the best drivers come from what you’d call the roomier states, like Oregon and Kansas.

That’s because drivers are less likely to crash into each other in the roomier states. (Although, there is that famous story about Kansas when automobiles were a new invention and there were only two cars in the entire state of Kansas and they managed to smash into each other! In defense of the two drivers, at that time, although Kansas was 82,282 square miles big, it had only .04 miles of finished roadway. Needless to say, Kansas didn’t do so hot in the 1910 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test coming in last behind New Mexico which wouldn’t even become a state until two years later.)

According to the study, small states like Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island have bad drivers. But not really that bad. The study is based apparently on people who took a written test created by the big insurance company and even the worst states scored in the 70 percentile range. Hawaii scored a 73, which last time I checked, would be considered a C grade. The world is controlled by C students. It’s C students like Bill Gates and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi who hire A students to do all their scut work.

The top states in the study – Kansas, Iowa and Colorado – scored in the low 80s which is only a B. The ugly truth is that no state actually scored an A (91 percent or above) on the test. That raises the question, who the hell was taking these tests?

I’ve never heard of the test before this study was published. GMAC invites you to “test your driving smarts” at its Facebook page  ( http://apps.facebook.com/nationaldriverstest/)  I took the test there and scored 100 percent.

Of course, there were only four questions and not one of them referred to armadillos. One of the questions – and I’m not kidding here – was “A red flashing traffic light read means: Yield, stop or caution?” Hmmmm. Can I phone a friend? I suspect that even 63 percent of Hawaii drivers could have scored a C on this test.

Hawaii drivers improved compared to last year where the state came in 44th, just ahead of West Virginia. I lived in West Virginia for a year and can tell you it’s dicey on the roads there. Everyone’s driving one of those huge coal strip-mining machines. (Sample question on West Virginia Driving Test: A red flashing traffic light means: Whoever is in my way is going to get flattened.)

The GMAC study made some other not-so-surprising findings like older drivers are better than younger drivers, male drivers are better than female drivers and old, male drivers are better at keeping their mouths shut when their wives are in the passenger seat.

Okay, I made the last one up. But I bet that’s true in any state.

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Charles Memminger is a national award-winning columnist, screenwriter and author. His first novel, "Aloha, Lady Blue" will be published nationally Jan. 22, 2013 by St. Martin's Press. Memminger is a senior writer at Communications Pacific, Hawaii's premier communications, marketing and PR firms. Memminger's commentary represents his personal views and are not affiliated with any organization. To keep up with developments regarding "Aloha, Lady Blue," like him at: http://www.facebook.com/charles.memminger. E-mail him at cmemminger@hawaii.rr.com