british_driving_testHere is a scenario for everyone that is able to drive…..

Imagine that you are in a room with 100 people. They are all the same age and sex as you, and are from roughly the same background. In walks a driving instructor. He is going to test the driving skills of everyone in the room, and will give each person a score that reflects their skill and safety.

Do you think that you would be placed in the top half of the group?

Feel free to give an honest answer!

135 comments

  1. Possibly not. I can’t park very well and I haven’t driven in a few years. I’d probably go for lower half (top end?).

  2. Although I’ve been driving daily for more than 25 years – [a lot of those professionally] – I would expect anyone my age, gender and basic background to be of a similar combined skill/safety level. I reckon i’d be just as likely to above, below or on the middle [taking into account bell curves and what have you].

    Point being that although I believe myself to be a good driver, my experience on the road is that the vast majority of people are pretty good at it too – the exceptions are really pretty rare considering how many people drive daily etc…

  3. Bit of a lead foot, and I can’t parallel park to save my life. I’d likely keep my speed down with an evaluator in the car, but his presence will only make my parking abilities worse.

    I may end up in the lower end of the top half or the upper end of the bottom…

  4. I can’t see why I wouldn’t be somewhere near the middle. I’d do better than some on some measures and worse than some on others.

  5. Going on the basis that it’s not unusual for me to go down one-way streets the wrong way (by which I mean “driving perfectly” if you happen to be a member of the constabulary)… I’d go for about average, possibly just on the lower half.

  6. Yes. Why??? Because I’ve been driving for over 21 Years and done about 30k a year mileage. I drive alot with good experience. Also done quite a few rally schools and won. Also good at go karting and riding motor x. Have always loved 4 and 2 wheels. Very alert and ride motor bikes on the road which makes you alot more aware than the average car driver. You learn to focus on further objects rather than what’s directly in front of you. So yes I’ll say I’ll be in the top. Only if the others are average drivers and not all the same level as me of course

  7. I know that ‘logically’ I’ll likely be in the middle, therefore it’s 50/50 (given it’s a homogenius population). But screw that, I’ll rate myself in the good half. I’ve only had one accident so far this year! That’s a whole order of magnitude better than this time last year…

  8. Yes. If you want to survive while driving in San Francisco and Los Angeles it’s best to become as safe and skilled a driver as possible.

    I qualify this by admitting my perception of my driving skill relative to others could be skewed, having done most of my driving in two U.S. cities notorious for bad drivers. (No, I’ve never driven in Boston and hopefully never will!)

  9. Result of these kind of tests is that 75% or more of the people rate themselves at the top 25% (or less) of skill. Is that really bad? No. (Self)confidence in competence tend to boost performance. What else would make the kill rate of motorized traffic so low? It is just that in the US so many people drive so often and so many miles that traffic kills fifty thousand people annually. Given the last statistic a campaign for a War on Cars is much harder needed than a War on Terror.

  10. I suspect that everyone thinks they’re a good driver and so what you’re waiting for is everyone to say “yes”.

    I’m really not sure. I’m good at the “driving” (ie thinking, being aware) part, but I’m not that brilliant at manoeuvring in tight spots and so on, so I guess I’d either be average, or lower half, depending on how much parking testing there was!

  11. Depends entirely on how you define “same background”. If you mean same as in the rest of the guys my age in my neighborhood while growing up, I’d expect to be at the top, as I was for classes, test scores, university placement, etc.

    However, if by “same” you mean people who were in a similar position of being atop their class, I’d have to assume I’m equally likely to be on either side.

    All that logic aside, as a 20 something highly educated male who watches a lot of Top Gear, I assume I’d be in the top of of just about all groups excluding professional race drivers.

  12. Yes, because this year I passed the Italian driving test, one of the hardest in the world–even though they don’t understand some stuff like when neutral gears and roundabouts. We had lots of questions about the rules for our semi-trailer trucks (which we’re not allowed to drive with our car driving license), even about where the reflectors should go and what color they should be.

  13. very low end, I have my license for roughly a year now and have driven maybe 5-7 times since (i live in a big ciy so no need for a car)…

  14. Yes, top half. I’ve been a passenger with my peers and I’m sure I’m a better driver! No accidents or points in 20 years driving. Now tell me why I’m wrong!

  15. Yes. Why? Because I have more driving education than most people, including safe driving on ice and rally driving.

  16. Right now, I’d put myself in the bottom half as I’ve not been driving much for a couple of years and when I do, I know I’m not as competent/safe as I was myself a few years ago. So as I’m not as good as myself, that’s pretty conclusive. Previously (with no accidents, no points etc) i’d have put myself in the top half based on knowing a significant proportion of my peers have a record demonstrably worse. That assesment was also based on feedback from passengers praising my driving and specifically how safe they felt and parking skills etc.

    (I know where this question is leading as I suspect many others replying do too πŸ˜‰

  17. in a test environment, yes.

    If I were observed over a period of years (i.e. real environment) then probably not.

    but I’m good at tests and always rise to a challenge!

    1. Funny, I read all the responses after I replied and yours and mine are practically indentical!

  18. Yes, on the grounds I’ve never had an accident in 20+ yrs driving, I shouldn’t say that should I; tempting fate !

  19. It sounds like the question is worded so that the entire group has a single score – so in that case, I would have the same score as everybody else in the group.
    If it is a genuine rating against others, I think I’d be about middle, but maybe top half….

  20. Top 5. Two reasons-
    1 – I’ve actually received compliments from strangers on my ability to parallel park.
    2 – this is how I usually skew random surveys. :p

  21. I’d place myself in the top half because I only passed my test 3 months ago, and got only 1 minor (UK test – don’t know what that equates to in US).

    Also, if people don’t think they are in the top half, it is a bit worrying that they are driving seeing as you need to have some confidence in your ability otherwise you drive at 45mph no matter what the speed limit. So annoying!

  22. Oooh, that’s interesting. Honestly, I have absolutely no idea.

    I think it really depends on how many new drivers are in the group – they’ll be much fresher on the skills you need to get a decent score. I’ve been driving long enough to have lost a lot of good habits and picked up a lot of bad.

  23. I know what my honest assessment is and I also know what the problem with it is as I have come across this example before. Strangely enough, even knowing the problem is not sufficient to alter my assessment. Damned brain!

  24. Yes i think so…but i guess that if the whole group is kind of the same, with the same background etc., then technically youΒ΄re kind of dependent on outside influences like: individual ability to persuade or maybe delude the instructor a tiny bit in his final outcome? And hoping others are not in the same frame of mind on the testing day…outside influences?

  25. There isn’t enough detail here to make an assessment, you dont say if the other 100 people are all drivers for example and you dont state what the test will be. Also, as others pointed is it an individual or group result….

  26. Yes, because I’m young enough that many people my age don’t drive much at all, yet I’ve driven consistently for years. Also, I’ve had some pretty good professional training.

  27. Top half, although I passed my driving test 20 years ago and you might think that would make me a complacent road user with bad habits, I passed my motorbike test 7 years ago with only 1 minor fault, the examiner said my riding and road sense were exemplary!

    Of course I’ve had 7 years of driving and riding since to go downhill! πŸ˜€

  28. Well, considering I’m being tested, I’d be being very attentive, careful etc, so I would probably end up in the top half. I do very well on tests πŸ™‚
    Normal every day driving… maybe not so much.

  29. Couldn’t possibly pass. And just becuase someone wrote she was a little Asian female I feel I should write that I am a big white male.

  30. I don’t drive, but I’ve often observed that people who rate themselves highly on ‘safety’ are generally skilled and confident but also somewhat reckless drivers, between 20 and 30, before they’ve ever had an accident. They base this idea on the fact that they drive well and have never felt at risk on the road. This confidence decreases, I’ve noted, after the first accident.
    Personally, I haven’t even tried driving yet because I’m convinced I’d be a public danger.

  31. Passed my test first time when I was 17 and am now 36…what can I say, I’m rubbish at it, probably as a combination of lack of experience and the confidence that it brings…I don’t drive now if I can possible avoid it, so deffo in bottom half, way down low!

  32. Don’t tempt me Frodo!

    Of course I would be in the top half of the group (I’m also more sexy and important that most people)

  33. I’m a kick arse parallel parker (!) so I’m confident I’d score well above similar peers in that. The rest though, as a poster above identified, would depend on whether the group were similar in education levels. Apparently higher level education is fairly highly correlated with driver safety so if we werent matched for education then i’d be confident in saying yes, top 50% at least.

  34. Oh yeah why not. I’m sure I’ll get better with age but there’s no reason as to why I wouldn’t be as good as anyone in the room.

  35. Yes. (And I would expect that the Overconfidence Bias will bear out that more than half of your respondents believe yes, as well.)

  36. Depends, are they going to make us parallel park?

    I would probably be around the 50% mark maybe a bit lower. Better than the horrible drivers, but not in the upper 25% because I simply don’t test well on driving exams.

    BTW: I read this entry out loud to my 2-year-old. At the prospect of a room full of kids the same age as him being given driving tests, he exclaimed “NO!!!”

  37. Anyone in the States who doesn’t use a cell phone while driving would be in the top half, except it would be more like the top 12%.

  38. I am fairly certain that if this test were given on a tuesday afternoon between the hours of 1:30 and 4:15 I would definitely say that the possibility of being included in the top half of my peers, but I also couldn’t exclude the distinct possibility of being acknowledged as one who ought to be rated at below par. There is a third possibility of either falling exactly within the median or of taking over the proctors responsibility if he succumbs to heart failure or stroke.

  39. Yes.

    Brings up an interesting point: does anyone else notice that, whereever you go in the world the drivers seem to be better than those “back home”?

    That said, I have a definite impression that UK drivers are better trained and better drivers than those here at home (I am Canadian, and am a motorcycle driving instructor). Certainly my impression that the licensing test requirements set a higher standard.

    So, Dr.W., would it be interesting to match your responses on this survey to geography?

  40. To make it easy on Richard: Yes, top 50%

    To anyone else who really cares:

    This is a pretty well known study. Humans have a strong tendency to overrate how good they are at different activities. I think the stats are something like 90% or people think they are in the top 50% in ability to get along with others. (I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me, but they are not far off from this).

    That being said, I still think that I am in the top 90% of drivers. Reason being that I am very critical of myself and am constantly analyzing my own driving style and decisions, something that I don’t know anyone else does.

    Of course I do live in a city in Massachusetts which has routinely finished in the bottom 5 states for worst driving scores in the country, so my experience of other drivers is probably worse than most other people.

    Also, I’m actually surprised at the number of people so far who have answered no. And to those people (or anyone really): Are you actively trying to become a better driver? why or why not?

  41. BTW, How many of the people who have answered yes, have driven crash gear box cars? Cars where the accelerator and clutch are swopped over, any vehicle older than 1950?
    You name it, I’ve probably driven it. Except HGV. Which I guess must makes me pretty experienced. My guess is 95% wouldn’t even know how to start a 1930’s car, let alone an Edwardian one.
    So yes, at least the top 10%.

  42. Quite likely…I am usually a calm driver and try to stay within speed limits and extra cautious when dealing with pedestrians – not to say that I don’t speed up when I am really running late (but that doesn’t happen too often)

  43. I’d say Yes but I’df reckon that doesn’t reflect my ability to drive just my ability to perform in tests…

    Is this based on the normal distribution? Is it not perhaps likely, if all the 100 people have passed their driving test, that there is a basic baseline of driving ability and that the distribution might not be normal (IE 50 in the lower half and 50 in the higher half) and instead be skewed towards higher scores?

    Thinking on, that what I just typed is irrelevent as it probably more applys to the group of all people who have taken a driving test rather then the group of people who have passed.

  44. Probably. I used to teach driving, both in the classroom and on the street (to adults – not teens) and was at one time certified to teach the state’s Defensive Driving program. I’m sure I’ve slipped a bit since then, but I’d probably still be in the top half.

  45. A hundred people of the same age, same sex, same background? I’d be exactly average. (Maybe not in the UK, though, as I tend to drive on the right sinde of the road.)

  46. Definitely top half, even though I know that’s the answer you expect most people to give (and be wrong about) but I feel I’m a pretty safe driver nevertheless, so there you have it.

  47. I would score probably around the 60th to 65th percentile, so no, I would not say that I’d be in the top half. I just don’t have enough driving experience (I’m three weeks shy of 19) to think I’d do any better.

    1. Travis, (how to say this?) I’m impressed that you recognize the effect your age and experience would have on your results. I’ve seen too many teens who think they’re God’s gift to driving.

      Stay safe. πŸ™‚

  48. Yes. I learnt to drive and passed my driving test in my mid 30s probably 15 years later than many of my peers. In that time the driving test had become much harder and the first time pass-rate dropped dramatically. I am convinced that I am a much better driver as a result of closely failing 3 tests before passing at the 4th attempt, I certainly learnt something from each of my failures.

  49. I think I would be in the top half but the lower end of the top half due to lack of experience. Only been driving 6 months and trying not to fall into the bad habits of friends that annoy me and aiming towards doing advanced driving as soon as I can!

  50. It sounds like most people are putting themselves somewhere close to the middle. I’m guessing that if we had to decide which quarter we belonged in that the top and bottom (especially the bottom) quarters would be pretty empty.

    That being said I’d put myself slightly below average which probably means I should really be in the bottom quartile.

  51. I have very good driving skills and some experiences that a lot of people, regardless of age or gender, just don’t have. I can parallel park a 40′ school bus and I have manipulated it successfully around a full Home Depot parking lot on a Saturday afternoon. I drove it cross-country with a car on a trailer behind it.

    I also got 100% on the practical portion of my driving exam when I was 17. I can do a handbrake turn and I can drive a manual transmission. I was a traveling salesman for a living for 2 years and I drove for U-Haul, picking up trucks that were dropped off at other locations and returning them to the home location.

    I also regularly drive a forklift and a boom lift for work where I have to maneuver around very tight (and expensive) obstacles all the time.

    I am a female in my early 30s, so yeah, I think I can drive better than other women my age since I doubt most of them have had the experiences I’ve had. I doubt most *men* have had the experiences I’ve had, but I know a lot of truck drivers, and since there are more men than women in the driving fields, I’m pretty sure that fewer women have the types of driving experiences that could rate them above my skill than the number of men who could.

    Of course, I drive better than most of my male friends too – those who aren’t truck drivers, that is.

  52. After passing my test about 30 years ago I would have to say I would be in the bottom half. We pick up bad driving habits over time.

  53. I’d probably fall right around the middle. I’m not a terrible driver. The only time I’ve been in an accident is when I was rear ended while stopped at a stoplight. I’ve never been pulled over. I managed not to hit the guy yesterday who was jogging in the middle of a lane of freaking Sunset Blvd when I turned a corner and !surprise! there he was. But I’m not a fantastic driver either. I tend to speed.

    I think I’d probably end up either at the bottom of the top half or the top of the bottom half.

  54. Yes but probably in the last places of the top half. I think I’m a little above the average driver. I’ve a lot of experience but nothing exceptional.

  55. I pride myself in being a good driver among my friends, but I doubt I’d do well in someone else’s test. Most likely I’d start off well, but as he points out little errors I would become self-conscious, and drive worse and worse. Eventually, I’d be an endangerment to society.

    However, if he’d allow me to pump up the radio, and would only make conversation rather than playing the critic, I think I’d do alright. Unless of course someone cuts me off….

  56. Skills and safety, yeah, I reckon I could edge into the top half.

    Would I pass my driving test if I had to take it again tomorrow? Probably not. I’ve picked up far too many bad habits.

    But that doesn’t make me a bad driver. Good driving, IMO, is about awareness of what is going on around you and being able to see potential hazards in plenty of time to react, and I think I’m pretty good at that.

  57. More than 50% of people will rate themselves as better than average, maybe as many as 75% would. The lesson here is most people think they drive better than they do. I’m not one of those.

    A more interesting study would be to divide the answers by nation and ask everyone what they think of “foreign” drivers and to rate them in order

  58. about fifty per cent of the time I will be in the top half, and fifty per cent of the time I will be in the bottom half.

  59. I would like to be at the top, I know in theory I should be somewehere 25-50 but i know if they were with me in the car i would panic and do something wrong – although when driving on my own i think im v good!

  60. I was having a bout of heat exhaustion recently and entered a road-side rest to get some shade and water. I drove the full length and could not find a shady spot, so I threw the car in reverse and backed up the full length including taking a tight right hand corner perfectly, and backing into a spot – without reducing speed…. in front of a police car.

    After my.. ehem.. discussion with the officer, who accepted my explanation of delusional thinking due to the heat and let me off, two fellas came over laughing very hard to tell me that my backwards driving was the best they had ever seen and the cop had trouble backing up around the corner to follow me. They thought I was going to keep on going backwards right up the ramp back onto the highway.

    So.. skilled? yeah! top 10%..
    Sensible and logical under pressure? bottom 10%.. LOL.

  61. I have no idea what a driving instructor thinks in terms of driving skills … only can say that whenever, so far, I have found myself driving behind a “student of a driving instructor”, the quality of the student’s driving tends to be fairly frightening (way too slow, totally unaware of any cars behind them, “owns the road” attitude) – so, judging by what I’ve experienced, I wouldn’t fit in.

  62. If you are talking a TDL driving test I would say the older you are the worse you would place. Someone who has just taken a test to become eligible to drive would score higher because the information is fresh on their mind. This is why we have optional drivers courses you can take when you have received a ticket to avoid your insurance rates going up. Sometimes you need to “relearn” information.

    So in the case of a TEST the younger you are the better you would place. Speeding is what kids get into trouble 4 or accidents when driving over certain speeds on a DMV test you can not speed. It’s a test it’s not real life therefore experience has nothing to do with scoring high.

    Just an fyi I was in an accident one time in my life when I was 16 years old. It was before my paper driving permit was turned into a picture id. I have never been in a car accident since then. I am 33 years old now. Ironic isn’t it? If I took a driving test I’d likely fail it but looking at my driving record I would come out on top.

  63. It depends on how I was evaluated. If one takes under consideration that I do not mind driving that extra mile, just so I do not have to make that dreaded “left turn” or that I do not switch lanes, I think I would do pretty good since I never caused an accident in all those years driving.:)

  64. I’ve heard that 90% of people think they are top 10% drivers. Which is really what makes the road so dangerous. They become cocky and careless.

    I’ve been told that I’m a bad driver. But I have never been in accidents. Those people (my dad, brother, male cousins…) all have been in multiple accidents! I think I’m frequently criticized because I’m female and they know that my right eye is legally blind.

    In the end, I think I pass. At least my insurance rates me 6 stars (safest).

  65. I am a very safe driver simply because I know I am not a good driver. Would I be in the top half? No. Is that why I leave a bug gap that people come along and fill making me drop further back? yes. I am good at fine maneuvering but cannot claim to be a good driver as I care to little about driving to become better. As long asd I am a safe driver I am happy.

  66. yes – because I’ve done what I consider more driving than average in locations that are more challenging than average.

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