Who’s the worst driver?

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 one’s own abilities, which is common in almost every area of life – particularly when people 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 to understand how competent or otherwise people are at a given task. Because many are rarely accompanied by anyone other than friends or family when driving, it may be that many rarely receive independent feedback on their 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.