Overconfidence: the problem revealed by latest road safety survey from Hitachi Capital

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Jonathan Southall, Marketing Business Partner, Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions

Are you as safe a driver as a driving instructor? According to our new road safety survey for 2015/16, which has just been published, a lot of people seem to think they are.

Nearly 90 per cent of respondents agreed that they are a ‘safer driver than most’, which compares with 99 per cent of our control sample of driving instructors.

Of course the driving instructors, with their advanced motoring skills, are rightly confident in their abilities. But what about the 90 per cent of regular drivers? Are they really safer drivers, or do some of them just think they are?

Sadly, there’s reason to suspect the latter. According to the road safety charity Brake, ‘Over 95 per cent of crashes are down to driver error i.e. “not looking properly” [and are] a result of overconfidence.’

This overconfidence can wreak terrible damage. There were 194,477 road deaths, serious injuries and less severe casualties reported in 2014, which is 6 per cent higher than the figure for 2013. This is the first such annual increase since 1997.

Our survey found further evidence of overconfidence. Despite the high proportion of drivers who regard themselves as ‘safer’, significant numbers also admitted to actions and habits that can only be described as unsafe.

For example:

  • Two-thirds (65.6 per cent) had broken the speed limit more than once within the past two to three months.
  • Over a third (34.3 per cent) had their mind on personal matters while driving.
  • Almost a third (31.7 per cent) admitted to adjusting their satnav.
  • Nearly one in ten (9.4 per cent) had used a hand-held mobile.

Perhaps the most eye-catching numbers, however, were those surrounding drink-driving. Nearly one fifth (17.8 per cent) of respondents admitted to driving after one or two alcoholic drinks, while 2.2 per cent confessed to driving while over the legal limit.

This latter proportion may seem small – but with millions of motorists on our roads, it doesn’t take high proportions to create high levels of danger.

When quizzed about speed, more than two-fifths (43 per cent) of respondents agreed that ‘some drivers drive too slowly for the roads; that’s why I sometimes end up closing the gap between my vehicle and theirs’.

One in four (24.5 per cent) revealed that they have undertaken a slower vehicle in the middle or outer lane.

The deeper you look into our findings, the more our roads seem like a tangle of frustrations and contradictions. Almost three-quarters (73.7 per cent) of respondents confessed to getting annoyed when other drivers cut in front of them, and 87.4 per cent claimed to have seen a near-miss or accident due to unsafe cutting-in. Yet a third (33.9 per cent) still said that there are circumstances in which they would cut in themselves.

As we conclude in our report, it is our collective responsibility – both within and outside the fleet industry – to correct this through better training and education.

We’ll be returning to the subject shortly, so keep an eye out for the next safety blog post on http://www.hitachicapitalvehiclesolutions.co.uk.

Joseph is a dedicated and passionate motoring enthusiast. Usually found behind the wheel of a white Ford Fiesta ST, but dreams of driving a Bugatti Veyron. Connect with Joseph via Twitter.