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Confidence is of course a positive trait among drivers. However, as the old adage suggests, we can have too much of a good thing.
Overconfidence is an important consideration for anyone involved in fleet safety, because the research shows that it leads drivers to underestimate risk, contributing to risky behaviours such as speeding and accidents
Here are four reasons why overconfidence can increase risk behind the wheel…
Drivers who are very high in confidence can lack caution and have a tendency to take on challenges that are beyond their capabilities, leading them to be more likely to commit errors.
Because being a confident driver is seen as desirable, a dangerous feedback loop can develop in over confident drivers: the feeling of being confident in more and more challenging situations is experienced as evidence of driving ability, and that ‘proven’ ability reinforces the feelings of confidence. A vicious circle can develop, with confidence feeding itself and can grow unchecked until something happens, such as a near-miss or an accident.
Overconfidence may also lead to drivers thinking that they can deal with potential impairments such as fatigue, alcohol and drug use, fatigue, distraction, and unsafe driving practices such as using a mobile phone while driving. For example, one study found that drivers rated their driving performance while distracted much higher than objective measurements of their actual performance (Horrey et al., 2009). This disassociation between perceived and objective ability may lead drivers to engage in distracted driving even though they intellectually understand that the behaviour is risky − it is just not risky for them.
Overconfidence in ones personal ability and a heightened propensity to take risks while driving is also associated with Illusions of personal control – the belief that one is less likely to be in an accident (Horswill & McKenna, 2004), which can have dangerous consequences for behaviour behind the wheel.