Auto News: Survey shows Americans think they’re great drivers, but habits tell different story

Staff Report

NORTHBROOK, Ill. — The majority of Americans consider themselves to be good drivers, but a new study reveals their candor tells a different — and dangerous — story.

American drivers believe their own driving knowledge, ability and safe driving habits are well above other drivers on the road. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of American drivers rate themselves as “excellent” or “very good” drivers.

Some regional differences emerge when drivers rate their own driving habits. Drivers in the Midwest are the least likely to give themselves top scores for driving ability. Twenty-five percent of Midwesterners rate themselves as “excellent” drivers, lower than the national average of 31 percent. Conversely, drivers from the South are more likely to score themselves highly, with 34 percent rating themselves as “excellent.”

This confidence in driving does not necessarily come from driver training. Formal driver training appears to be more prevalent in Midwestern states, where 77 percent report having had formal training, compared to 68 percent in the West, 66 percent in the Northeast, and 58 percent in the South.

Whether they received formal training or not, drivers rank themselves well above other drivers in terms of their driving knowledge, ability and safe driving habits. American drivers’ positive ratings for themselves are more than twice as high as the rating they give to their own close friends (29 percent “excellent” or “very good”) and also other people their age (22 percent).

Drivers also don’t think much of the driving ability of people from surrounding states. Nationally, 53 percent rate them as “average” or “poor,” while just 8 percent rate those drivers as “excellent” or “very good.” Survey results show that drivers in the Northeast and South are more critical of drivers from neighboring states, with 58 percent from both regions ranking them as “average” or “poor,” while drivers in the Midwest and West are less likely to rate them as “average” or “poor,” at 44 and 50 percent, respectively.

Others that American drivers rated lower than themselves include:

• American drivers give teen-age drivers the lowest rating of all groups. Eighty-one percent rate teen-agers as “average” or “poor” drivers.

• Seven in 10 Americans give senior citizen drivers comparatively low scores.

• Parents with very young children in the car also get mediocre scores from the American driving public. Just 26 percent of American drivers rate this group as “excellent” or “good,” while 33 percent rate them as “average” or “poor.”

• Even those American drivers who have their own very young children are critical of their peers and rate themselves more than twice as high as “excellent” or “good” drivers (64 percent) than they rate their fellow parents (29 percent).

Among all drivers surveyed, men are more likely to rate themselves as “excellent” than women (36 percent versus 26 percent), as are college-educated drivers (35 percent) compared to those with no degree (28 percent). Republicans also rate themselves higher (70 percent) than Democrats (61 percent) or Independents (61 percent).

I know it’s wrong, but …’

Despite American drivers’ confidence in their abilities, many admit to practicing dangerous behaviors on the road.

• Eighty-nine percent say they’ve driven faster than the posted speed limit, and 40 percent say they’ve driven more than 20 miles per hour over the limit.

• Fifty-three percent report having received a speeding ticket or other moving violation. Among these drivers nationally, 44 percent say they have received three or more. More men say they have received a ticket than women (61 percent vs. 46 percent), and those who have received tickets get more of them (an average of 4.3 per man compared to 2.6 per woman).

• Drivers in the South and West are more likely to have received a ticket for speeding or other moving violation, with 58 percent of drivers in the West and 56 percent in the South, saying they have received a ticket, compared to 46 percent in the Northeast and 50 percent in the Midwest. Among those who have received a ticket, drivers in the West have the highest average number of tickets at 4.6, compared to 3.5 in the South, and even 3.0 in the Midwest and 2.7 in the Northeast.

• Among all surveyed, men are more likely to speed than women (48 percent versus 30 percent).

About the survey

The survey of 1,000 American adults was conducted July 13-14 and 16-17 via landline and cell phone and has a margin of error of plus/minus 3.1 percent. Of the 1,000 adults, the survey identified 848 drivers who hold a license and drive at least occasionally. The survey was conducted by Financial Dynamics (FD) for Allstate.

From the Sept. 21-27, 2011, issue

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