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updated: 11/5/2012 5:27 AM

Do you know your driving IQ?

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  • Know your signs. This one indicates a divided highway.

      Know your signs. This one indicates a divided highway.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Keep right: The arrow on this sign tells you where to drive when you approach traffic islands or medians.

      Keep right: The arrow on this sign tells you where to drive when you approach traffic islands or medians.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Know your signs. This one indicates a railroad crossing.

      Know your signs. This one indicates a railroad crossing.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Study your signs before taking a written driving test.

    Study your signs before taking a written driving test.


I thought I was sooo smart. After all, I'm a transportation writer. I know what CREATE stands for. What the federal gas tax is. And what bituminous means.

Then came the six big errors in the written drivers' license test at the Secretary of State's office last month. My driver's license should be changed to an L permit -- for loser.

At least I didn't do as badly as the guy ahead of me at the Schaumburg DMV. He made seven mistakes and had to write the test again. Double shame.

I mean, how am I supposed to know whether to leave 3 feet or 4 feet of passing space when overtaking a cyclist? Or that a yellow triangle means no passing?

The only silver lining is: Ignominy at the DMV equals column material. Even better, column material that can help you avoid my humiliation, thanks to some tips from Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White's Press Secretary Dave Druker.

It turns out there were 805,682 written driving tests given in 2011. Of those, 737,568 were passes, 68,114 were failures.

You're allowed to get six of the 35 questions wrong. Any more, and you flunk.

But you don't automatically have to take a written test. Anyone who received a ticket for a moving violation in the four years their license was valid is on the hook.

The state also randomly selects drivers to test. "It's meant as a safety check," Druker said, adding "you can go your entire driving career without taking it." (For the record, my last ticket was in 2005 for a stop sign violation -- a rolling right -- so I must have won the test lottery.)

Of the 35 questions on the test, 15 involve identifying signs and 20 involve traffic laws.

What question stumps the most people? Surprisingly -- it's the seat belt law that requires everyone to buckle up, Druker said. Identifying signs also bogs everyone down.

Asked if getting six questions wrong means you're a terrible driver, Druker kindly said, "not necessarily."

And should you get a summons for the written test in your license renewal notice, he advises, "don't panic. Don't worry."

For one, you have three opportunities to take the written test. Should you fail three times you have to start the application process over again and pay another $30 fee.

To bone up on Illinois 2012 Rules of the Road, go to

"There isn't a question on the test that isn't dealt with in Rules of the Road," Druker said.

The state also offers about 1,000 free safe-driving classes a year. For more info, call (312) 814-3676.

When I asked to keep the copy of my test, the clerk gave me the skunk eye and said it was forbidden because it could get on the Internet.

Druker explained, "we have a series of questions we rotate. We don't want to compromise the test, and we want to avoid cheating."

Far be it from In Transit to encourage cheating. But if you're among the lucky 800,000 or so taking the test -- take my advice and study the road sign shapes.

Got an opinion? Drop me an email at;[/URL]

(And by the way, CREATE stands for Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program, the federal gas tax is 18.4 cents a gallon and bituminous means asphalt.)

One more thing

So what's your driving IQ? Here are few sample questions from the Rules of the Road. Answers next week.

1. It is permissible for anyone to wear a headset while driving. True or false?

2. During the Initial Licensing Phase, a teen driver is allowed only two passengers under age 20 in the vehicle during the first 12 months of licensing. True or false?

3. A driver does not need to allow as much distance when following a motorcycle as when following a car. True or false?

4. What is the penalty for being convicted of illegally passing a stopped school bus?

(a) Driving privileges or vehicle registration suspension and a minimum $150 fine

(b) 60-day suspension of driving privileges

(c) $30 fine and 14-day suspension of driving privileges

5. When passing a bicyclist, motorists must do so slowly and leave at least 3 feet of passing space. True or false?


• Want to sound off on the Illinois tollway's proposed budget? Or talk about how much you love tolls? There are two opportunities: at 6 p.m. Nov. 13 at the tollway headquarters, 2700 Ogden Ave., Downers Grove; and 3 to 6 p.m. Nov. 14 at the O'Hare Oasis on the Tri-State.

• Looking for a Safe Driving course? There's one from 10 a.m. to noon Nov. 20 at the Buffalo Grove field house, 530 Bernard Road.

Gridlock alert

Route 43 will be squeezed into one lane in each direction from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today just north of Deerfield Road in Deerfield. Why? Blame the Deerfield Public Library, which is getting a new water main.

Your voice

Charles G. Schultz wasn't impressed with the explanation of delays in finishing the Butterfield Road project in west DuPage County. "I (am) incredulous that anyone would think or suggest that construction this past summer was delayed because it was too dry and hot. What a joke!" he wrote.

"Wha t do you think they do in areas like Phoenix -- do they stop working on their roads because it is too hot or dry? Of course not. And don't forget that last winter we had very limited snowfall and the temperatures were very moderate allowing for more than 'normal' highway construction work days. Why didn't that permit the work to be done ahead of schedule?"

Big winners in poster contest

Here's a shoutout to some young artists who won Metra's Safety Poster Contest this year.

Local first-place winners include: kindergartner Manya Davis of Naperville; second-grader Alyssa Meza of Bloomingdale; fifth-grader Ethan Chen of Green Oaks; sixth-grader Jasmine Meza of Bloomingdale; and eighth-grader Maria Guadalupe Garcia Eustaquio of Des Plaines.

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