Why Everyone Thinks They Are Amazing Drivers

Maybe, just maybe, we aren't as good as we think...

They’ve got one mirror dangling from the car by a single wire, a multicoloured rainbow of paint scrapes on their bumper and wonder why they keep wearing out their clutch. But even the worst drivers on our roads, those who keep getting involved in accidents ‘that aren’t their fault’, believe they are, in fact, good drivers.

Statistically half of us are below average at driving. But no-one thinks that; everyone thinks they are great. Scientific studies have found that 93% of motorists judged themselves ‘above average’ at driving. One survey even found that 36% of drivers believed they were still above average while texting or sending emails at the wheel.

Of course, as the writer of this article, I’m sure that I am well into the top ten per cent and I know that you lot are among the dozens of useless drivers I see out there every day on the road. Or am I? That’s the problem: we all judge ourselves very favourably and blame everyone else when things go wrong. Perhaps I’m really rubbish…

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So why is there this over-estimate of our own abilities? Well, for a start, a team of psychologists found that people use their own definitions of what makes a good driver. For some it was being ultra slow and cautious, for others it was being able to take corners at high speed. Some even believed their ability to multi-task made them superior. After all, what could be more skilful than being able to eat a sandwich, tune the radio and turn round to talk to your kids while cruising at 70mph on the motorway?

“For a portion of drivers, their ability to text message while driving might be one of the characteristics that they believe makes them a unique and superior driver,” the scientists wrote in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

Another reason for our inflated self-image is the way it is easier to spot other people’s mistakes than your own. You may not see another vehicle in your blindspot, then they suddenly appear alongside you. Your first reaction is likely to be: “What’s that idiot doing?”

If you drive through a red light because you didn’t see it, you’ll never know you got it wrong. If you see someone else do it, you’ll think they should be banned immediately.

Similarly, you might be in the wrong lane at a junction or cut someone off without realising. Most people drive in a semi auto-pilot state, using habitual reactions to get them through the hazards of the road. It’s relatively easy to do something wrong and not even notice. But gazing out through windscreens it seems the road is littered with other drivers making mistakes. We might have made the same ones without realising.

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Think back to your driving test. Back then I knew the Highway Code, the specific manoeuvres required and how to impress the examiner. Since then I’ve forgotten the lot. I’ve replaced it with habits based on many hours at the wheel - and not all those habits constitute ‘good driving’.

Don’t forget that the lovely driving position and ergonomic controls of modern vehicle cockpits are designed to make the occupant of the driver’s seat feel in control, to give a commanding view of the road and ensure we feel like we’re capable of high performance driving feats. That’s one of the ways they sell us those expensive cars we can’t afford.

Finally, there is another reason we all rate ourselves higher than the rest of the fools around us. Ask people how intelligent they are and the vast majority say ‘above average’. It’s simple: we are all big heads.

The only way to be sure is to take the IAM advanced driving test. This will certainly set you aside from the herd - so long as you pass it..!!

I agree with Johm. I took the IAM test thirty years ago before I started teaching my children to drive. I was told that my driving was better than I thought it was (am I unique?). In a sense I was disappointed because I was hoping that I would get some useful feedback.

Maybe the answer lies in the meaning of "average". It is only in a normal distribution curve that the Mean, Median and Mode averages are the same. It is highly probably that driving ability does not follow a normal distribution, and it could well be that the Mode average (the largest population) is relatively low, allowing for the fact that well over 50% would be "better than average". It would be interesting to hear what psychologists have to say on the subject of perception of average. As for myself, I fall into the "better than average" for most of the time category, although I am sure that my wife would disagree! :¬)

I once heard someone on the radio advising it is best to stay in the middle lane of a three lane motorway, and he had passed his advanced driving test, so although he'd passed his advanced driving test his common sense wasn't very high, in my opinion in that case the advanced driving test meant nothing.

iv been what some may call a professional driver for around 25 years now but it's only been the last 5 years I have spent working on this same question there are a lot of people that don't fully understand the Highway Code or misinterpretation it in some way I make shore I recognise all my mistakes and learn from them and this has been the single factor in the last few years that has made me a better driver I have not had a single accident in my hole driving history and I do all I can to maintain this record guys we all make mistakes we just need to learn from them before you sound your horn at someone consider first you may be at fault or mayby the car just made an honest mistake why raise your blood levels and increase your chances of hart attack by resulting to road rage you will never see that person again and if your realy unlucky he could be out of his head and retaliate neither is worth doing Next time it happens and you get angry take note how it affects your driving immediately afterwords do you want to be the cause of killing somone on the road because you got angry at someone who made a mistake Think abaout it

There are different forms of advance driving test if it's just a pass plus then that's not realy advance for example if your able to get a platinum uk licence then that I would consider advance

Poor advice! Which 'so-called' advanced driving test did he say he'd passed??

What the hell is a "Platinum UK Licence"..?? - Never heard of it..!! The IAM test is the only real defining factor to distinctly reveal an advanced driver capability...

Thanks David - I would suggest that you take the IAM test again. I've taken it, and passed, three times in the past thirty years and also acted as an 'Observer' for others about to take it. There is much comfort to be derived from knowing that one's driving ability is up to scratch!

I must be an exception to the rule because I introduce myself as an averagely educated average Englishman who is in fact pretty average at just about everything... It might be the way I was brought up or perhaps something genetic that forces me to delegate judgement of my abilities to those more able than myself. Just like most people my "average" ability is a mixture of highs and lows and all points in between. When behind the wheel and on familiar ground it is a high but when on unfamiliar ground I am as likely as anyone to make a pig's ear of reading five lots of road signs while looking out for cops and speed cameras and hardly taking my eyes from the speedo and all while watching out for other traffic, most of which is on familiar ground... I have always maintained everyone's right to behave like a tourist and try to be patient when encountering "one of those" while on familiar ground in the hope others will be patient with me when circumstances next force me to be a tourist in someone else's backyard - usually a forlorn hope.

There's a very simple answer for those that think they are great drivers. Have an assessment drive with IAM or RoSPA advanced driving, or in my case riding. I've been driving since 1967 and riding a motorbike since 1974, I am competent and confident but still learning every time I go out with my advanced riding instructor. Try it, I think it will shock everyone that does it no matter how good you think you are, consider it a challenge :-)

Just seen this after posting my comment about IAM and RoSPA. It's a great for making people realise how bad they are!

To keep your advanced driver status I think you need to be reassessed annually, not sure if insurance companies ask you if it's current or just if you have passed it.

If you're a member of your local IAM branch, you will automatically be re-assessed regularly. Insurance companies are usually happy to offer discounts if you have passed the test within the previous 5 years.

good to take the iam test, and even better to pass it, but that doesn't make us perfect drivers, even police drivers make mistakes

That's true Ted, but not nearly as often! Very few drivers can be perfect all of the time, but IAM training and application does enhance concentration and the art of thinking ahead and anticipating potential hazards in advance. Even driving within your point of vision can enable you to avoid most unexpected occurrences...