The Better Than Average Driver

OptimismHave you ever met anyone who would admit to being less than a better than average driver? The next time you are having a casual conversation in a group ask this question. Changes are good that the majority of the people there will rate themselves as better than average, something that cannot be as half of us have to be less than average drivers.

Why does this overconfidence occur? It's something known as the optimism bias or comparative optimism. Both neuroscience and social science suggest that we are more optimistic than realistic. From the point of view of a driver, this may mean that it is unlikely that we will cause or be involved in a collision, that we can drink and drive safely or that we won't get caught by police if we fail to follow the rules.

The optimism bias can be positively influenced by training in situations where the driver perceives that risks can be controlled by their driving skills. In contrast, training has no influence over situations where the driver believes that circumstances are not in their control such as weather conditions or a sudden flat tire. Maybe this explains why I see four wheel drive vehicles pass by me at speed when traction is poor!

Where does this all fit in with Canada's Road Safety Week? It's the perfect time to pay attention to what all the advertising is telling you about what happens when you make mistakes in high control situations. Maybe it will be a positive influence.

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Too funny.

I took it upon myself to break up a whining session in our office today by challenging the beliefs of the people concerned by pointing out that the drivers they were complaining about were actually obeying the law, unlike my colleagues who were in fact in contravention of the law.

Created an interesting conversation with all the excuses coming out as to why they were correct, even as to what they would tell a police officer if he pulled them over, to which I had to remind them that the police officer will have heard all the excuses they come up with and many more.

It is interesting how many drivers think they know the rules of the road and yet they last looked at them when they took their test and they will argue very forcefully as to why they are right.

Your right that no one will place themselves below average, but, by defination, 50% of us are. I asked a few family, friends and neighbours, then watched them, in terms of actually stopping at stop sighs and red lights when turning right, signal light usage, lane changes, maintaining the speed limits, not crossing solid white lines, understanding and utilizing right of ways, etc. Most consider themselves far above average behind the wheel, while admitting that they do not come to complete stops, use signal lights, adhere to speed limits, resposibilities of and around cyclists, or understand how the right of way works at uncontrolled intersections (particularly three way intersections, but all claim superior driving skills.

When driving with these same individuals, or observing their driving from behind, the story is less than they profess. Some are blatantly dangerous, while most are merely oblivious, neither of which makes for good or safe driving. Many are simply future statistics!

Without ongoing education and periodic testing none of that will improve, but, it will continue to change. Also, as new situations, systems, and markings are introduced, there need to be educational updates on how and why these systems are meant to be utilized. For instance changine lanes within a traffic circle is one I see al the time, passing vehicles on the right (both cyclist and motor vehicles), and a complete failure to signal behaviours (again, both cyclists and drivers), continue to evidence a driving style in a downward spiral. Lack of enforcement, hitting these offenders where it counts, in their poketbook, adds to the dwindling standards. In fact, many who consider themselves above average drivers may truly be so, but, the abysmally low standard of today's drivers does not make this something to be proud of.

Education, testing (a retest every five years at license renewal?), and far better and more vigilant enforcement are necessary to turn the tide on this ever eroding standard.



I'm a retired safety professional. My experience is that most people will act responsibly, if well informed on the consequences.

I follow the rules, but am not necessarily the best driver, as I find that I'm not always concentrating, although I drive defensively.

Does advertising and campaigns change behavior? Not from my experience.

For example there was a recent campaign on tinted windows, but there are still a number of vehicles driving around with highly tinted drivers windows-an obvious violation.

Despite the intense campaign on cell phones and texting, the use of these devices, while driving, has returned to an epidemic level. I recently observed a police car and a high lift truck at the same intersection and the truck driver was talking on the cell phone, with no concern of any consequences.

Enforcing the new drinking and driving laws had an immediate impact. Bars and restaurant business dropped significantly. Lawyers were out of work. Drinking drivers were taken off the road and cars impounded. Road deaths due to impaired driving, dropped. Why is this not a good thing?

I believe that enforcement is a necessary part of education for many. Unfortunately with out adequate enforcement, many drivers will continue to take risks.

I am 50 years old now,with a professional class 1 licence,with litterally Millions of kms on the hwy. 2,000,000 kms logged,hauling a super B flatbed,,,30 wheeler!

Saying that,don,t think for a minute,,I can,t keep learning,,even with that Experiance.  As When I was Younger,,,I was the Best Driver on the Planet

(Between My Ears,,anyways) The Truth beiing I am Very Lucky to still be Alive.  Esspesally NOW Lookin Back!!

And after all my experiance,,,I am still learning,and trying to Improve,go figure, because I used to Know it ALL,Now realizing that in FACT,,It was almost all luck the I am not pushing up Daisys.

Saying "half of us have to be less than average drivers" is wrong. They might be, but they don't have to be. For example if you score 10 drivers, and get marks of 10, 8, 9, 8, 7, 8, 6, 2, 1, 0, the average score is 5.9, which means that 7 out fo 10 are better than average, and 3 are significantly worse than average. Just saying.

... but if averageness is being expressed as a percentage, then out of a group of 100 drivers 50 of them will be below average, and 50 of them will be above. That simple.

The fundamental problem is that 90 or more of them figure they fall into the latter category ... 

No it's not that simple. What's meant by averageness percentage?. The 50/50 point is NOT the average; it's the median.

Given that those driving without due care and attention to the rules and to others are much more noticeable on the road than drivers who are not, it's entirely understandable for many people to perceive that they are better than most other drivers. This is not the same thing as thinking you are perfect and can do nothing wrong. As has been noted, enforcement and education must be used to focus on driver errors. Driver errors are the fundamental problem.