People who complain about New Jersey drivers now have some statistical ammunition.

Jersey drivers ranked 48th in the nation in a test of driving knowledge, beating out drivers from only Maryland, Hawaii, and Washington, D.C., the GMAC Insurance Co. said Thursday.

But, hey, that's an improvement. In the same test in each of the last two years, New Jersey drivers came in 50th.

Pennsylvania drivers finished in 26th place, a big improvement from 2010, when they were 39th.

The GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test scored motorists on their responses to 20 questions culled from state Department of Motor Vehicle exams. Scores of 70 percent or better were considered passing.

New Jersey drivers had an average score of 73.5 percent, and 31 percent of Garden State respondents failed the test.

The national average score was 77.9 percent, and 18 percent of drivers nationwide failed the test.

Kansas scored highest, with an average of 82.9 percent correct, topping the nation for the second year in a row. Wyoming had the fewest drivers flunk, at 4.5 percent.

Among the nation's regions, the Northeast had the lowest average test score (74.9), and the Midwest had the highest (77.5).

Men scored better than women. Twice as many women failed the test as men (27.2 percent vs. 13.6 percent), and men had a higher average score (80.2 vs. 74.1).

Among age groups, drivers ages 60 to 65 had the highest average test scores, at 80.3 percent.

The test was administered to 5,130 licensed drivers between the ages of 16 and 65 drawn from an online volunteer consumer panel, with at least 100 respondents from each state. The study was administered by TNS, a market research firm, which said the tested drivers were selected to mirror states' age, gender, and ethnicity balances.

The research company said the margin of error of the survey was plus or minus 2.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

The full test is available at www.gmacinsurance.com.

Contact staff writer Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587