The Role of Personality Characteristics in Young Adult Driving

Background. Motor vehicle injury is the major cause of mortality among young adults. Information about the individual characteristics of those who drive dangerously could enhance traffic safety programs. The goal of this research was to examine the association between various personality-related characteristics and risky driving behaviors.

Methods. Young adults in Michigan, USA (n = 5,362) were surveyed by telephone regarding several personality factors (risk-taking, hostility, aggression, tolerance of deviance, achievement expectations) and driving behaviors (competitive driving, risk-taking driving, high-risk driving, aggressive driving, and drink/driving). Michigan driver records were obtained to examine offenses, serious offenses, driving offense points, crashes and serious crashes in the three pre-interview years. Multivariate regression analyses, adjusting for age, race, and marital status were conducted separately by sex to identify personality factors related to driving.

Results. For men and women, greater risk-taking propensity, physical/verbal hostility, aggression, and tolerance of deviance were significant predictors of a competitive attitude toward driving, risk-taking driving, high-risk driving, driving aggression, and drink/driving. Greater risk-taking propensity, physical/verbal hostility, aggression, and to a small degree, expectations for achievement predicted higher numbers of offenses, serious offenses, and points.

Conclusion. Traffic safety policies and programs could be enhanced through recognition of the role personality factors play in driving behavior and the incorporation of this knowledge into the design and implementation of interventions that modify the behaviors associated with them.