Who taught you to drive?

Who taught you to drive? A New Year’s Quiz

How do rules about cellphone use in cars vary by state?
Pat Wellenbach/Associated Press/File
How do rules about cellphone use in cars vary by state?

English, math, science, history, and geography. Grade school in a nutshell, for most of us. And it’s fun to note that much of what we learn can still be divided into those basic subjects.

In October, I wrote about the composition of E85 fuel — a science question.

In November, we traced the etymology of the word turnpike — clearly a topic for English class.


In July we learned how cellphone laws differ across the New England states. A short, but important, geography lesson for any local driver.

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Today is the day of my annual quiz, encompassing all we covered in 2012.

And yes, we are going old-school with our categories. Good luck!


With more than 45,000 plates issued, this reigns as the state’s most popular special registration plate:

A) The Red Sox charity plate

B) The Patriots charity plate


C) The Boston Celtics charity plate

D) The Right Whale environmental plate

E) The Cape Cod & Islands plate

What’s the fine for getting caught with a police radar detector in your car?

A) $50

B) $150


C) $250

D) No fine — it is legal to own one

Your car insurance covers windshield damage. If it did not, how much would a typical windshield cost to replace?

A) $250

B) $400

C) $600

D) More than $600


The state’s ban on texting while driving prohibits which of the following:

A) Any action that requires typing on a cellphone, including dialing

B) Reading or sending texts or e-mail, or using the Internet

C) Texting while moving; but it is OK to text at a red light

What was the original definition of the word turnpike?

A) Turnpikes were a popular fish in Colonial days.

B) Toll collectors were originally called turnpikes

C) Turnpike was a form of Colonial currency; it cost one turnpike to use the road

D) The pole blocking the road at a toll booth was called a turnpike

What appears on your official driving record, as kept by the Registry of Motor Vehicles?

A) Every offense you have committed dating back to the issuing of your license

B) Offenses you have committed during the past 10 years

C) Offenses from the past 10 years, excluding warnings


Former governor Alvan Fuller popularized the idea of Presidents’ Day car sales more than a century ago by throwing extravagant parties at his dealership. What was Fuller’s hometown?

A) Marlborough

B) Attleboro

C) Malden

D) Quincy

E) Worcester

Where does the name “station wagon” come from?

A) In World War II, such vehicles ferried supplies between battle stations

B) It is borrowed from horse-drawn carriages that brought people and their luggage to and from train stations

C) They are named after their inventor, Ford engineer Edward Station

D) They were originally called stationary wagons because of how slowly they moved after being overpacked

Why do fire trucks have signs that read: “Stay back 300 feet?”

A) Firefighters used to fall off the back of trucks and would get run over

B) It was the distance needed to properly unfurl hoses off a truck

C) In olden days it was thought that flying ashes could travel 300 feet

D) No one can say for sure how the signs first came about


Which New England states ban cellphone use while driving unless it is “hands-free”?

A) Actually, hands-free devices are not required anywhere in New England

B) Massachusetts is the only New England state that allows you to call with your hands

C) Connecticut is the only “hands-free” New England state

How does Massachusetts compare with the rest of the nation in terms of seat-belt compliance?

A) More people buckle up in Massachusetts than in any other state

B) Turns out we are the worst state in terms of wearing seat belts

C) We are about average

When is it legal for a motorist to drive in a marked bicycle lane?

A) When making a right turn, entering a parking space, or passing a vehicle — so long as no bicyclists are in the lane

B) Motorists are never allowed to drive in a marked bike lane


Which of the following statements are true?

A) Diesel fumes from an idling car or bus can trigger an asthma attack

B) Toll-booth cameras cannot read a license plate if its reflective coating has worn off

C) Your car’s windows are pretreated to protect you against cancer-causing UV rays

D) All of the above

E) A and B only

How much brighter are modern headlights than those produced 20 years ago?

A) Most are 40 to 70 percent brighter; some rival daylight

B) Not much brighter

C) They only appear brighter because of their blue tinge

D) They appear brighter only because car makers are now allowed to angle them upward

The number of state gas stations selling E85 bio-fuel more than doubled in 2012. Why is it called E85?

A) Because it is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline

B) The other way around: it is 15 percent ethanol, and 85 percent gasoline

C) E85 stands for Environmental 85, a government fuel standard

D) The name refers to the octane level of the fuel, which is 85

Answers: Math section — E, D, and A; English section — B, D, and C; History section — C, B, and D; Geography section — C, B, and A; Science section — E, A, and A.

Peter DeMarco can be reached by e-mail at, on his Facebook page, “Who Taught You to Drive?,” and on Twitter @whotaughtU2driv.