How good – or bad – a driver are you?

Driving psychology is endlessly fascinating. Most of us get behind the wheel with a high degree of confidence in our driving skills. But we also tend to dismiss other road users as incompetent or criminally reckless. Which means we’re all cruising round thinking we’re fine and responsible drivers while everyone else is a menace.
angry-driver
Logic dictates we can’t all be right. But does that really matter? It probably does. It’s not a huge step from confidence to complacency. And when we let our guard slip, we become the bad drivers we assume are piloting all the other cars on the road.

Bad habits

You probably don’t want to admit that your driving skills are a bit rusty, or that you’ve acquired some bad habits behind the wheel, but the latest accident figures from the Department of Transport are an eye opener. Last year, driver error or reaction was listed as a contributory factor in almost two thirds (74%) of accidents on British roads, involving more than 117,000 casualties. Police can cite up to six factors for the cause of each accident they report. The second highest factor was ‘behaviour or inexperience’ which was recorded as a contributory factor in 26% of crashes, accounting for more than 40,000 casualties.   Road environment was further down the list at 13% and vehicle defects were cited in just 2% of accidents, involving 3,230 casualties. Here’s the list:

Contributory factor reported in accidents in 2014/Percentage of accidents cited in:

  • Driver-rider error or reaction/74%
  • Behaviour or inexperience/26%
  • Injudicious action/25%
  • Impairment or distraction/14%
  • Road environment contributed/13%
  • Vehicle defects/2%

Human error

So it’s clear driver behavior is to blame in most accident – or is at least a major contributory factor. Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), says: “People often blame their car, the road, or the other driver for the accidents and near misses that they have. “These figures show that in the vast majority of cases, it’s the driver or rider themselves who is to blame.” Greig says drivers in general need to change their attitudes when behind the wheel: “People must accept responsibility for enhancing their own skills and recognising their limitations.”

Minimising mistakes

Of course, motorists will always make mistakes. But if you want to minimise the risk of driver error – and therefore the risk of causing an accident – it might be worth signing up for a motoring course. The IAM runs one of the country’s most well-respected driving courses. Its Skill for Life programme is based on the police driving manual and culminates in the advanced driving test. You can find further details and get a free IAM taster session here. And once armed with an advanced driving qualification, you might be able to secure a discount on your car insurance.

Extra coaching

Greig says: “It is not enough to leave people to their own devices once they have passed their test. “Like so many other areas of life extra coaching pays dividends – and for a driver or rider, that means keeping their skills fresh by continuous assessment.”

Accident prevention

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) also offers the advanced driving test. It takes about an hour and the examiners are all either serving or retired police officers. Alternatively, there’s the Driving Standard Agency’s Pass Plus. The course is aimed at newly qualified drivers and is made up of six modules, covering skills such as driving on motorways and at night.

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