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A few years ago I was interviewing for a position with a subdivision of a large company in New York City. One of the things that hit me as odd about this interview was that the recruiter was interested in my driving record and wanted to know if I have any traffic violations.

Is there any connection between a safe driving record and personality traits or other psychometric test scores? Can anything about a person's personality (e.g., agreeableness, neuroticism, or "lawfulness") be understood by looking at the person's driving record?

In this context, "safe driving record" only refers to the absence of recorded infringements. For example, a person who engages in unsafe driving but for whatever reason does not get caught, would still have a "safe driving record".

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A lot of organisations are concerned about work place safety and integrity. Some jobs require driving as part of the job. Furthermore, in some jurisdictions personal injury that results from accidents that occur while commuting to work are covered by workers compensation. Thus, in some cases, driving behaviour is directly relevant to the job. In other cases, asking such a question could be seen as an example of a biodata item.

It seems reasonable to me that, in general, frequency of getting driving infringement notices would be a rough and approximate measure of a general tendency to drive safe. No doubt there would be many other factors that would contaminate the measure (e.g., people who drive more are more likely to et a ticket; some jurisdictions or areas enforce speeding, drink driving, etc. more rigorously).

Research has correlated personality with various dimensions of driving behaviour. Oltedal and Rundmo (2006) provide one example based on a sample of 1356 Norwegians. The table below shows the correlations between various measures of personality and driving related variables. Excitement-seeking, anxiety and agression were all taken from the NEO (i.e., a typical measure of personality). Risky driving behaviour was a composite measure that incorporated self-reported levels fo speeding, driving rule violations, and self-assertiveness. Accident involvement measures were obtained were binary measures based on whether the participant had ever been in such an accident.

These results suggest that there are correlations between several personality traits and self-reported risky driving behaviour, particularly excitement seeking and low anxiety. These measures seem less related to actual accident incidence. However, the accident measure has a number of issues (accidents are uncommon; they are confounded by amount of time a person has spent driving; many accidents are not the fault of the driver).

Anyway, if you are interested in learning more, have a read of some of the many articles returned by a search on Google Scholar for "personality driving behavior".

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References

  • Oltedal, S., & Rundmo, T. (2006). The effects of personality and gender on risky driving behaviour and accident involvement. Safety Science, 44(7), 621-628.
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Interesting idea about driving being covered by worker's compensation. This might've well be the case, because commute to NYC is very tough. –  Alex Stone Nov 10 '12 at 18:59

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