Some people can drive for decades without ever getting into a car accident, while the accident rates of others are so bad that their insurance companies waste little time dropping them. What makes some people so accident prone? Although the inexperience and immaturity of very young drivers is a big factor, that doesn’t explain the high accident rates of some people who are well into their thirties.
One explanation is that specific personality traits make some people more prone to engaging in risky driving behavior. The more often an individual exposes himself to risk, the greater the probability that he will become involved in a crash. It’s just a matter of time, and often, it’s a short time at that. Some of these personality traits include:
An Impulsive and Angry Personality
Impulsive and predominantly angry people are more likely to engage in aggressive driving that leads to traffic accidents. These people are quickly frustrated by anything that disrupts their progress on the road. Their impulsiveness causes them to vent their anger through their car, which endangers nearby traffic and especially the motorist he perceives as getting in the way. This impulsive anger also makes him highly intolerant of other aggressive drivers.
Such a person is more likely to view driving as a competitive zero-sum activity where his win is another’s loss (and vice versa). This makes him less willing to drive cooperatively. When pulling into traffic, he will aggressively force his way into traffic and seize an opening.
Chronic Emotional Stress
Severe emotional stress caused by grief, marriage problems, or work stress makes some drivers emotionally distracted. Their thoughts are frequently directed toward the stress provoking problem rather than on their driving. Extreme emotional states also degrade their sense of judgment.
Some people are especially poor at making accurate self assessments. They overestimate their driving ability and fail to follow safety rules or take prudent precautions. They are also blind to evidence that contradicts their false self perceptions. These are the people you see exceeding the speed limit in conditions of thick fog or on ice-covered roads.
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