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Professor Ivan Robertson
"These tests could be used in the selection process"
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Thursday, 4 January, 2001, 13:39 GMT
Identifying the accident prone
Is dangerous driving linked to personality?
Your personality could determine how likely you are to be involved in an accident, say researchers.

Certain personality features may make one person more accident-prone than another.

And they may be the crucial factor behind up to a quarter of all mishaps.

It could be very foolish and dangerous to appoint somebody with all the wrong personality characteristics

Professor Ivan Robertson, UMIST
The reseachers say this could make it possible to screen people applying for potentially risky jobs such as train drivers and air traffic controllers.

A team from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology indentified three key personality traits:

  • Dependability - the tendency to be conscientious and socially responsible
  • Agreeableness - the tendency not be aggressive or self-centred
  • Openness - the tendency to learn from experience and to be open to suggestion from others
The found that people whose personality featured low levels of the first two traits are more likely to be involved in accidents.

However, high levels of openness are also associated with an increased risk.


Lead researcher Professor Ivan Robertson said people with low levels of agreeableness tended to be highly competitive and less likely to comply with instructions.

People with high levels of openness tended to be somewhat dreamy, and to let their imagination get the better of them.

He said: "The results we have got certainly would be helpful if they were used in a selection setting.

"While somebody should not be excluded on the results of these tests alone, I would be happy to defend their use as part of the overall selection process.

"It could be very foolish and dangerous to appoint somebody with all the wrong personality characteristics to a job in a potentially dangerous environment."

The researchers found no link between the risk of accidents and other personality traits, such as being extrovert and being emotionally stable.

Linking personality to accidents has proved to difficult to evaluate in the past, because of the many different methods used by researchers to collate their data.

However, the Manchester team got round this by using a technique that standardised their findings.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said: "We do not accept that certain people are accident prone, although we do believe that certain factors at different times of life will make a person more likely to have an accident.

"People need to be educated to help create an accident free environment.

"If you start to label certain personality types as accident prone then there is a danger that some people will start to blame their personalities, rather than accepting responsbility for their actions."

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See also:

12 Aug 00 | Health
Lefty workers 'at risk of injury'
20 Jul 00 | Health
Accident care 'costing lives'
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