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Research shows we drive the way we live

Stressed out, depressed or unsatisfied with your life or work? According to new research, you’re more likely to be an unsafe driver.

The research, which was presented in a National Road Safety Partnership Program undeniably relates the link between unhappiness in life and the likelihood of being involved in a driving incident.

In the research, people were asked to a series of questions on how meaningful they felt their life is, how engaged they are and how much pleasure they experience on a daily basis. Of the people who rated themselves lower on the satisfaction scale, the more likely they were to violate traffic rules.

Dr Robert Isler explained the results in a recent Webinar saying “we found this extreme strong correlation between how people judge their lifestyles and the number of incidents they would report in the previous six months. An incident was defined as a fine, a near-miss or a crash.”

Drugs, fatigue, anxiety, depression, stress and distraction all led to impaired vision perception and resulted in actions that included dangerous overtaking, following too closely, risky driving and abrupt stopping.

The research draws focus on a certain branch of science called traffic psychology, which studies the human and environmental factors that influence our driving behaviour.

Some of the psychological biases and errors we face when driving include:

  • We fail to realise when we’re being an aggressive driver, or we simply don’t care. Many people can claim that they’ve engaged in aggressive driving behaviour, such as tailgating, and the research shows that drivers that score high on “sensation-seeking” behaviour are more likely to be aggressive on the road
  • We overestimate our safety. Driving can easily become an autonomous task, especially if we’ve had our licence for a number of years. Over time, however, we tend to predict the actions of other drivers, leading to the illusion that we control them. For example, we overestimate how much time can be saved by driving a few kilometres over the limit while underestimating the minimal safe breaking distance
  • We drive more dangerously when we’re going solo on the roads. No cars around? No passengers in the car? Something changes in our consciousness that changes our driving behaviour when we’re alone on the road which could be due to a sense of not needing to be responsible for another person.

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