Page last updated at 00:00 GMT, Thursday, 28 January 2010

Most drivers 'feel they are superior behind the wheel'

The Stig from Top Gear
We can't all be as good a driver as "The Stig", point out the psychologists

Most motorists fancy themselves as better drivers than others on the road, Canadian psychologists have found.

When Ottawa University researchers polled nearly 400 drivers ranging from the youngest to the very old, virtually all rated themselves favourably.

This was especially true when older drivers were used for comparison, even if the person questioned fell into that category themselves.

This bravado could lead to more accidents, the scientists warned.

Clearly, it is impossible that all drivers are better, the psychologists told the Accident Analysis and Prevention journal.

This might explain why young men tend to have more accident on the roads than other drivers
Psychologist Sylvain Gagnon

Since drivers underestimate their own risk and overestimate their ability, this may make them less cautious on the roads, they say.

Sylvain Gagnon and his team asked the drivers to rate how they would fare with different driving conditions, including poor weather, emergency stops and fast roads with heavy traffic.

They were asked to say how likely they would be to have a crash compared to an average motorist of the same sex.


All drivers, men and women, young and old, rated themselves over the "average motorist", especially when this average motorist fell into the over 65 age category.

Young men felt the most superior.

Middle-aged men rated themselves as better than similarly aged drivers, and far superior to younger and older motorists.

Older drivers - aged 65 plus - felt most superior when they compared themselves with motorists of the same age.

Mr Gagnon said that although this confidence is good for the ego, it could have dangerous consequences.

"If you think that you are a better driver, then perhaps you start behaving differently behind the wheel and do not pay as much attention as you should.

"This might explain why young men tend to have more accidents on the roads than other drivers."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport said: "Britain has some of the safest roads in the world and we have cut the number of people killed on the roads by almost 30% since the mid 1990s.

"But seven people are still dying on our roads each day so we must all do everything we can to further improve safety.

"To ensure that new drivers understand the responsibilities faced by those who use the roads we are currently overhauling the driver training and testing system, including introducing a new pre-driver qualification in safe road use for 14-16 year-olds."

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