Delusional Drivers - Exploring the reality behind people's perceptions of their driving ability.

Delusional Drivers - Exploring the reality behind people's perceptions of their driving ability.
Delusional Drivers

As of 2018, road fatalities in the U.S. road fatalities in the U.S. exceeded 40,000 people, 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 road.

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.

Who Are The Most Delusional Drivers - Acceptance Insurance Chart

Significant percentages of survey participants engaged in aggressive actions when driving. Somberly, men are far more likely to be involved in fatal car crashes than women, and younger drivers are routinely most likely to die in car-related accidents. Although 92% of millennial men considered themselves safe drivers, younger men were likely to exhibit a propensity to display dangerous driving, with millennial men being more likely than other age groups and women to have run driven without a seat belt (24%), and received a citation for speeding (22%).

On a more positive note, one of the safest groups of drivers, baby boomer women, were also the most likely to think of themselves as good drivers. With cellphone distractions and less driving experience plaguing younger drivers, baby boomers are more likely to excel in driving exercises and have better driving habits.

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 to come.

Delusional Drivers: An Exploration By Acceptance Insurance

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.

Delusional Drivers: An Exploration By Acceptance Insurance

Podcasts are increasing in popularity, as they are a touch-free, safer alternative compared to other forms of distracted driving. However, they still have the ability to divert someone's attention off the roads and into a good story or episode. It's important to be mindful that distractions, even mild ones, are still distractions.

Which Regions Think They Have the Best Drivers?

Driving Safety In America - Acceptance Insurance Chart

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.

Drivers in Mississippi are most likely to be distracted by their phones in the car, and even teen drivers in Mississippi don't get off to a good start. The number of teens dying in car accidents is 186% higher than the national average for all adult drivers.

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

Who Are The Most Aggressive Drivers - Acceptance Insurance Chart

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 behavior 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.

Delusional Drivers: An Exploration By Acceptance Insurance

Although exact behavior in video games is unlikely to be repeated by players, research has emerged that racing game enthusiasts may have risky driving habits.

How Does Driving Style Impact Overall Life Outlook?

Life Satisfaction of Passive and Aggressive Drivers - Acceptance Insurance Chart

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 careers.

Road rage is a chronic problem that stems from aggressive driving, which escalates a confrontation far beyond an acceptable response, and it has even been shown to increase the risk of heart problems and blood clots, among other health issues.

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 as well.

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 risks.

Protecting yourself on the road is of paramount importance, so turn to a trusted source for all of your insurance needs. Compare rates with Acceptance Insurance 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 boomers.

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 entire data.

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 noncommercial purposes.