Drivers are too optimistic on roads

Neuroscience and social science suggest that we are more optimistic than realistic when it comes to our driving skills

Have you ever met anyone who would admit to being less than a better than average driver?

The next time you are having a casual conversation in a group ask this question. Changes are good that the majority of the people there will rate themselves as better than average, something that cannot be as half of us have to be less than average drivers.

Why does this overconfidence occur?

It’s something known as the optimism bias or comparative optimism. Neuroscience and social science suggest that we are more optimistic than realistic.

From the point of view of a driver, this may mean that it is unlikely that we will cause or be involved in a collision, that we can drink and drive safely or that we won’t get caught by police if we fail to follow the rules.

The optimism bias can be positively influenced by training in situations where the driver perceives that risks can be controlled by their driving skills. In contrast, training has no influence over situations where the driver believes that circumstances are not in their control such as weather conditions or a sudden flat tire.

Maybe this explains why I see four-wheel-drive vehicles pass by me at speed when traction is poor!

Canada’s Road Safety Week recently tried to persuade you to pay attention to what all the advertising is telling you about what happens when you make mistakes in high-control situations. Maybe it will be a positive influence.

For more information on this topic, visit Questions or comments are welcome by e-mail to Tim Schewe is a retired RCMP constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. His column appears Friday.

Comox Valley Record