A MAJORITY of British motorists claim to be better drivers than everyone else on the road.
That’s the key finding of research into how motorists estimate their position in the pecking order of driving skills compared with everyone else on the road.
Online motor retail specialist BuyaCar.co.uk asked more than 1,000 motorists how they would rank their own driving skills in comparison with other people.
It turns out that about two thirds of us either believe we’re ‘among the best’ drivers or ‘better than most’ while only a quarter see ourselves as ‘average’.
Meanwhile, a measly seven per cent of motorists admit that there is ‘room for improvement’ in their driving.
Psychologists have long been fascinated with the phenomenon of overestimating our own abilities, which is common in almost every area of our lives – particularly when we are young. Social psychologists even have a name for it – ‘illusory superiority’ – and one study at the University of Wellington, New Zealand, warned that the illusion can pose road safety risks.
One of the most widely agreed explanations is that the experience of receiving feedback from other people – both positive and negative – is crucial in helping us to understand how competent or otherwise we are at a given task. Because we are rarely accompanied by anyone other than friends or family when driving, it may be that we rarely receive independent feedback on our driving.
But in the case of BuyaCar.co.uk’s findings it also seems that the older we get, the more generous we are in assessing our own competence. Drivers up to the age of 34 were most likely to admit to ‘room for improvement’ or even – in a handful of cases – that ‘I’m a bad driver’.
In contrast, people aged 34 to 55 were most likely to describe themselves as ‘among the best’ and in this group nobody at all was willing to identify as a bad driver.
Austin Collins, Managing Director of BuyaCar.co.uk, said: “It’s amusing to find that so many drivers believe something about their status behind the wheel that is logically impossible.
“Most of us simply can’t be better at something than most other people.
“Perhaps the most amusing figure of all is the tiny proportion of people who believe they could improve as drivers. It suggests that we should all pay more attention to the mistakes we make at the wheel, even if we aren’t prepared to talk about them openly, because there is really always room for improvement.”