Delusional Drivers - Exploring the reality behind people's perceptions of their driving ability.
As of 2018, road fatalities in the U.S.
exceeded 40,000 people for three consecutive years, a startling result of a lack of comprehensive safety education and
unsafe driving habits. Beyond causing your insurance premiums to soar,
partaking in risky behavior behind the wheel can be deadly.
If you ask the average person about their driving skills, though,
they’ll likely boast about how carefully they conduct themselves while
driving. In fact, people tend to view their acumen as superior to the
typical driver. But this can blind us to our own poor actions on the
So how often do we exaggerate our commitment to road safety? And who
drives more aggressively: men or women? Millennials or baby boomers?
To answer these questions and more,
we analyzed data from the 2017
Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)
and paired it with a survey of over 1,000 people who were polled
based on questions from the Dula Dangerous Driving Index (DDDI) to
classify them as “passive” or “aggressive” drivers.
Self-Perception: Can We Trust Our Senses?
Most people tend to think of themselves as good drivers but actually
display patterns of poor driving. When clustering respondents by
gender and age, over 90% of all groups self-reported as safe drivers,
but a closer look at their driving behaviors tells a different story.
This is a manifestation of someone viewing the world through a
subjective social reality, a term used to explain why we consider ourselves absolved of blame
or error. The way that we perceive things may not line up with reality
or even how others experience the same thing. So when 39% of all
millennials reported having run a red light, but 94% of women and 92%
of men self-reported as good drivers, we have to question how honestly
we are critiquing our driving.
Good drivers aren’t born overnight. Some people are naturals behind
the wheel, but others are more fearful or timid when driving. It takes
time, intensive studying, and practice to excel on the roads for years
We found that drivers are more likely to be accident prone if they had
difficulties passing their driver’s test in under three attempts.
Preparing for the written and practical exams is required to obtain a
driver’s license and crucial when establishing safe driving practices.
Putting value in learning the rules of the road helps make the test
feel more important and it’s likely that can predict how effective on
the road a person might be.
Foundations aside, one issue that drivers face in the digital age is
distracted driving, which many try to avoid with hands-free solutions
such as podcasts and audiobooks that keep two hands on the wheel and
both eyes on the road.
A majority of Southeastern residents believed they were safe drivers,
but six of the top 10 most unsafe states were all south of the
Mason-Dixon Line. In fact, Mississippi and South Carolina drivers were
involved in the most fatal car crashes.
Perceptions aside, which region is actually the safest?
According to FARS data, the drivers least likely to be involved in
fatal car crashes were concentrated in the Northeast, with New
Hampshire and Connecticut leading the way: Even their UPS drivers
lead the nation in safe driving.
Men, Younger Generations the Most Aggressive Drivers
Up to this point, we have considered how people perceive their own
driving skills and learned that we might give ourselves more credit
than is due. Next, we asked survey participants a variety of questions
to determine each person’s score on the Dula Dangerous Driving Index,
a way to measure someone’s likelihood of driving aggressively.
When assigning percentiles to the average scores for generation and
gender, certain trends emerged.
We found that millennial men consistently had more aggressive
tendencies, while baby boomer women had the least aggressive driving
habits: When we sorted respondents into passive or aggressive drivers based
on their raw scores, 47% of millennials scored as aggressive drivers,
compared to 37% of Gen Xers and 28% of baby boomers.
Additionally, 46% of men were aggressive drivers, compared to just 36%
of women. Recent research shows that men are
more likely to act aggressively and reciprocate aggressive
while driving, while women tend to back down when faced with a road
rage situation. They may be more passive overall, allowing them to
evade dangerous incidents on the road.
It pays to drive more safely, and it costs to drive recklessly.
We found that aggressive drivers paid $216 more in car insurance
per year than passive drivers.
Our advice? Slow down, treat the roads and other drivers with respect,
and be thoughtful when driving.
How Does Driving Style Impact Overall Life Outlook?
Taking out life’s frustrations on the road may follow you even after
you lock your vehicle and walk away. Aggressive drivers were less
content than passive drivers with their life, health, finances, and
However, while passive drivers were more satisfied with their
finances, they tended to make less money.
Aggressive drivers earned $7,000 more per year than the most
passive drivers, but they also were more likely to have significant
debt. Researchers have observed
a link between narcissism and aggressive driving, an indication that combative personalities can be self-destructive
Insurance Is the Best Defense While on the Road
It’s important to consider your place on the road and in the world.
It’s impossible to tell who is going to be a threat by what is visible
through the driver’s side window. This necessitates a demand to be a
safe and aware driver.
Many of us think we’re far more competent drivers than we actually
are, resulting in roads with drivers who are ignorant of their own
Protecting yourself on the road is of paramount importance, so turn to
a trusted source for all of your insurance needs. Compare rates with
to obtain the best possible price for insuring your home, vehicle,
property, and more.
We used Amazon Mechanical Turk to survey a total of 1,001 drivers. To
be considered in our data, respondents were required to a) drive a car
at least monthly over the past year, b) complete the entire survey,
and c) pass an attention check in the middle of the survey.
Participants who failed any of these were excluded from the study.
Of all respondents, 52% were women, 48% were men, and less than 1%
identified with a nonbinary gender. In terms of race/ethnicity, 77% of
respondents were white; 8% were Asian; 7% were black or African
American; 6% were Hispanic; 1% were multiracial/biracial; less than 1%
were American Indian or Alaska Native; and less than 1% were Native
Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Fifty-two percent of respondents were
millennials (born 1981 to 1997); 29% were from Generation X (born 1965
to 1980); and 18% were baby boomers (born 1946 to 1964). Generation Z
(born 1998 to 2017), the silent generation (born 1928 to 1945), and
the greatest generation (born 1927 or earlier) were excluded from the
study. The average age of respondents was 40 with a standard deviation
of 12 years. The data had a 5% margin of error for millennials, a 6%
margin of error for Generation X, and a 7% margin of error for baby
In visualizations showing quantitative averages, we removed outliers
or used medians so that the data were as accurate as possible.
To group respondents into passive or aggressive drivers, we gave
respondents “aggressive driving”-pertaining questions from the Dula
Dangerous Driving Index. We then totaled each respondent’s score, and
respondents could have a minimum score of 0 and a maximum score of 28.
We assigned the average score (4.95) a z-score of 0. Respondents with
negative z-scores (below the average) were considered “passive”
drivers, and respondents with positive z-scores (above the average)
were considered “aggressive” drivers. Visualizations that contain the
“most passive” and “most aggressive” drivers were in the bottom
quarter and top quarter of the normalized data, respectively. When
displaying scores of generations and genders, we converted averages of
raw scores on a scale of 0 to 28 to percentiles in relation to the
Fair Use Statement
The worst drivers you know might be your close friends, family, or
even yourself. Share the results of this survey (and cite us while
you’re at it) to help your overly confident loved ones see the light.
However, please make sure to share these results for solely