Are We All Getting Worse At Driving?


It is one of those topics that is completely open to subjection, but when it comes to our own driving skills we seldom want to admit if we are performing below average. The main question that crops up with more drivers on the road is if we are getting worse collectively at this all important skill. The bitter irony of there being so many more safety features on modern cars is that there appears to be less care taken by drivers when it comes to embarking on a simple and short journey. Statistically, it has been shown that short journeys have resulted in more accidents than long ones. And especially now with there being more accessories that we can attach to our dashboards, from mobile phones to the sophisticated space age technology that we can access at the touch of a button from within our car, it’s no surprise really that there is a lack of care from the perspective of the driver. But who is to blame in this whole equation? Is it the driver or is it the other person in the other car? Or is it the fact that we are bound by more driving limitations than ever before? Let’s try to answer the question.

Addressing Our Own Attitudes To Driving

Whether you are fresh faced having just passed your driving test, or you’ve been driving for over 50 years, and have seen the changes in the roads which were once quiet and lacking in cars, the fact of the matter is that there are more cars on the road now than ever before. In the UK, on average, 1.6 million people take their driving test, although the pass rate is around 43% of that number, meaning around 688,000 people pass their driving test every year. And as each one of those is likely to get a car upon passing their test, the number of cars on the roads every year in the UK is going to increase. Looking at it from a personal perspective, passing your driving test has always been seen as a rite of passage we need to go through. And as the cliche goes, we all learn more after we pass our driving tests than we ever did during our lessons!

 We all learn infinitely more as soon as we get on the road because only then are you truly weighing up against the odds. They say it’s within the first year of passing your driving test that you are more likely to be involved in an accident as you start to address your own confidence on the road. But the most difficult thing from the perspective of a new driver when getting out onto the roads is that you are thrust into certain bad habits straight away because of the pressure to conform to other people’s bad habits! This can only serve to be one of the reasons why there are many “problem drivers” on the roads.

There is a branch of science known as traffic psychology which focuses on the behavior of people driving, from the human aspect through to the environmental factors, and it has shown that even the most competent drivers are prone to issues that might be only attributed to these problem drivers normally. A few choice examples of common errors that we are all subject to when we are behind the wheel includes not caring if we are aggressive or not, thinking that we are safer than we really are, and, probably the most telling, blaming other drivers for near misses.

The Blame Culture

We have all been guilty of it if we ever had a near miss it’s never down to our own recklessness, it is always somebody else’s fault. And research undertaken in traffic psychology has shown that we excuse our own errors purely down to the circumstances of the road at the time, or even the situational problem that arose. One common example being “late for work.” And this is a very interesting part of how we all address our skills as drivers now, we don’t think that far ahead when it comes to how we develop our road etiquette. And as people are having piled personal and professional pressure on a near constant basis, this naturally contributes to issues like driver fatigue and a massive increase in stress and anxiety. Couple this with the ever-increasing amounts of people on the road, and you have got a recipe for disaster.

The culture of blame is something that we need to address within ourselves, rather than tarring people with the blame brush. We seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that we are causing an accident by either driving too fast or too slow. Speeding is the most consistent problem that drivers are guilty of during freeway or motorway driving (depending on where you are the world). The issue is in joining a freeway (or a motorway) if you are driving too slow you can cause an accident, but if everybody else is speeding, it can be a dilemma for you to face as a driver, do you speed up and therefore break the law, or do you operate at a safe speed? Unfortunately, the speed of life that we are operating now means that we are forever in a rush, and so we are all more inclined to break the law by speeding a little bit if we can get away with it. And it is something we see on an all too regular basis. And by getting away with it once, many drivers are more likely to try it again (and again) which means is only a matter of time before an accident happens. In psychology, the Dunning-Kruger effect is the term attributed to people who believe to have skills greater than they are and it is no more truer than when we are behind the wheel in our own car.

Feeling Protected

One of the more likely reasons we are more prone to outbursts and aggression is that we feel safe behind the wheel in our car. A lot of us wouldn’t dare do or say the things we do on a daily basis in our car in real life. We wouldn’t be this verbally aggressive, and we wouldn’t be carrying this superior attitude that we all have on the road. Research has shown that drivers that are more prone to aggressive behaviors, like tailgating or prolonged honking, are more likely to be if they believe they are the more important driver. 

 

There are more accidents on the road than ever before, and there are infinite resources to show how to recover from an accident, in a physical and financial sense. You only have to look at a law page like on the one that Keith Magness provides which has a detailed breakdown of how to recover from accidents in the physical and financial sense. When it comes to feeling protected behind the wheel, it’s merely an illusion that we all carry with us. Throw into the mix a sense of false security while we’re on the road, as well as additional distractions, it is now harder than ever to be a good driver that is thoroughly aware of everything going on around them.

It’s these three factors that contribute to a false sense of security and belief in our own abilities to drive better than ever before, when in fact the rising amount of cars on the roads, as well as increased amount of distractions within the vehicle, have shown that we are just more prone to the basic errors. Something like a hands-free mobile phone in the car makes us believe it’s safe when in actual fact evidence has shown that it is no less dangerous than holding a phone in your hands, which most of us wouldn’t dare do.

We all develop bad habits while we’re on the road, and short of us all taking our driving test again, the only effective preventative measure we need in place is stricter penalties on the road for our driving. And while it appears that speeding is the one culprit that we are being punished for, it seems that with excessive devices in the car and with increased distractions, on and off the roads, it seems that we have a long way to go before we improve our abilities.