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Young Drivers

If accidents are randomly generated, they should be equally distributed among the population. Single-vehicle accidents were also studied on Route U.S. 66 and on the California State highways with respect to age. The analysis used a risk index based on the mileage rates and accident involvement for different age groups. In neither case was the mileage and accident data for exactly the same group of drivers, but the results were almost alike. The rate of accident involvement reached a peak at about age 20, then dropped sharply, and stayed almost constant until about 60.

Young males between 15 and 25 have a death rate from car accidents that far exceeds any other age group.7 National statistics for 1963, for example, showed a high peak in vehicular deaths for males between 15 and 25 years, contrasted with a slight rise for females of the same age. The death rate for young males dropped sharply after 20, and remains almost constant until 65. This data and other studies dealing with this age group suggest factors within this age group that set this group apart.

A study of out-of-control accidents was made on a crooked and hilly road which is three miles long between Carmel and Pacific Grove, California. These accidents were totaled for three years. There were 52 accidents for drivers between the ages of 16 and 60. Both sexes had about the same number of accidents, namely six female and five male, for the 31 to 60 bracket. In the group between 16 and 30, there were six female drivers in accidents. For the corresponding male age group, there were 35 accidents. As in the national statistics, the involvement rate peaked for young males of about 20.

Behavioral Patterns

If accidents are the result of random chance, then they should be evenly distributed throughout the population. There should be no significant differences between people who have repeated accidents and those who are accident free.

In a study, two groups of students from high schools in Pennsylvania were selected.9 The drivers in the first group had had two or more traffic accidents. Those in the second group matched the individuals in the first group with respect to geographic location and length of driving experience, but had no accidents. Both were given standard psychological tests of emotional and personal adjustment, and a Driver Attitude Inventory. The investigator found that drivers having accidents tended to score high while those free of accidents tended to score low with regard to each or a combination of the following attitudes :

1. An attitude toward driving as activity which relieves

psychic tension.

2. An attitude toward driving as a form of behavior by which

youthfulness can be compensated and the role of an adult
can be assured.

3. An attitude toward driving as a form of behavior in which

confidence in one's ability can be manifested.

An attitude toward driving which does not consider speed
an element of danger or, if it is considered dangerous,
an attitude manifesting desire for danger.

5. An attitude toward driving which places greater emphasis

on the power of a vehicle than on its style or utility.

On the personality tests it was found that the accident prone youths showed more disregard of social mores, more defiance of authority and more of a tendency to excessive activity and enthusiasm. On the basis of items in the various scales of this test, the investigator concluded that persons who had the following experiences are more likely to manifest behavior which results in accidents:

1. An urge to leave home.

2. A desire to do something harmful or shocking.
3. A tendency to be influenced by people about them.
4. Association with peers to whom parents object.
5. A desire to frighten others for the fun of it.
6. A tendency to become impatient with people.
7. A tendency to be suspicious of overfriendly people.

8. Prior trouble with the law.

McFarland believes that frequent accidents may manifest a poor adjustment to meeting social and personal demands of life. Objective support has been given to this opinion. Several other studies have shown that accident repeaters have far more contacts with such agencies as the courts, collection and credit organizations, public health and venereal disease clinics, and social welfare agencies. Tillman and Hobbs verified this by comparing accident repeaters against selected controls who were carefully matched in age, experience and exposure to risk. The following table shows the results. Fully 66 percent of the accident repeaters were involved with agencies dealing with socially maladjusted people. The two control groups of accident free drivers had a 9 and 10 percent contact with these agencies.

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Another study, utilizing a control group of safe dộivers, was made of 450 licensed drivers between the ages of 16 to 24.11 The drivers were divided according to whether or not they had a safe record (i.e., no accident or violations for two years). Dangerous drivers were those with two or more accidents or violations, or both, within one year. This study by Pelz revealed that dangerous drivers were more likely to feel pressure from adults, to respond to peer pressure about driving and to have fist fights. Dangerous drivers also tended to use driving as an outlet for these tensions, and displayed an increased tendency to drive as a means of blowing off steam after an argument.

In another study, a sample of ten high-accident and ten low-accident drivers were studied through intensive psychiatric interviews, with special emphasis on social history, personality development, current attitudes, current behavior patterns, and personality functioning. 12 There was no difference between the two groups' basic intelligence or psychomotor responsivity. The high-accident drivers displayed more impulsiveness, aggressive behavior, low tolerance for tension, separation anxiety, dependency needs, and extremes of both egocentricity or sociocentricity as well as excessive fantasy preoccupation and unreflectiveness. The psychopathology of this group also included poor reality testing and emotional instability.

In a study of 20 high-accident taxi drivers and a like number of lowaccident drivers, Tillman and Hobbs emphasized patterns of psychopathology , as well as the importance of social maladjustment in the high-accident sample. "S They used direct observation and psychiatric interviews. Records from police, juvenile court, and other social agencies were also obtained. The characteristics of the high-accident group included aggressiveness, impulsiveness, inability to delay gratification, exhibitionist tendencies, the overuse of projection, and serious problems with authority.

Drivers responsible for 96 fatal accidents in Washtenaw County, Michigan, over a three-year period were matched by Selzer, Rogers, and Kem, with a 96-driver control group. 14 There was significantly more psychopathology in the fatality group in terms of paranoid ideation (23% vs. 5%), suicidal proclivity (21% vs. 8%), and clinical depression (21% vs. 8%). Social stress was measured for serious personal conflicts or vocationalfinancial crises during the 12-month period prior to the fatal accident for the fatality and control groups, respectively. The fatality group had significantly more personal conflict (32% vs. 8%) and vocationalfinancial stress (36% vs. 8% than the control group.

Alcohol And Accident Involved Drivers

It is estimated that 65 percent of the population drinks some form of alcohol. More than half of adults use the highways at least occasionally after drinking. However, the scientific evidence is irrefutable that the primary problem is persons who have been drinking heavily. Alcoholics and other problem drinkers, while constituting a small minority of the population, account for a large share of accidents. Almost half of the drivers in fatal crashes have been found to have blood-alcohol concentrations of 0.10 percent or more. The excessive use of alcohol by drivers and pedestrians leads to some 25,000 deaths and a total of at least 800,000 crashes in the United States each year. 15

Haddon finds it is especially tragic that much of the loss of life, limb, and property on the highway involves innocent persons. 16 One medical examiner estimated that 44 percent of the drivers killed were victims of drunken drivers. The most serious crashes involving alcohol are caused by a small fraction of drivers who have been drinking excessively. Typical alcoholic drivers are not skid row bums. They may be employed in respectable jobs and ofter are not even known to their intimates as problem drinkers.

Other Psychological Deficiencies

It has been shown that there are significant differences in personality traits and behavior between accident-free and accident-involved drivers. Accident involved drivers have serious difficulty in adjusting to society. This furnishes another independent means of determining whether accidents have random distribution throughout the population.

One group of people who fail to live up to their responsibilities habitually fail to pay their debts. Is there a correlation between this lack and accident frequency? Crancer and McMurray have found a correlation between poor credit ratings and poor driving behavior and driver improvement. 17 A comparison of the driving records of persons with good credit ratings and those with poor ratings was made to determine the relationship between economic and driving behavior. This comparison showed that poor credit risks had more accidents and more violations than the average; while persons with good credit had about the same number of accidents as all drivers. Warning letters were less effective in reducing accidents and violations when issued to poor credit risks than when issued to the good.

Economic irresponsibility often indicates poor driving behavior and less chance for driver improvement. Good credit ratings are more likely to be associated with average drivers; they also have a greater likelihood for driver improvement should they begin to accumulate a deviant driver record.

A person hospitalized for attempting suicide obviously has failed completely to fulfill his role. Crancer and Quiring have found that these people, who are subject to extreme psychological stress, have predictively! higher accident rates. 18 Names of 915 persons hospitalized for suicide gestures in 1963, 1964, and 1965, were obtained from the records of King County Hospital, Seattle of this group, 438 had valid Washington State driver's licenses. The records of these drivers were compared with those of 687,228 driving persons living in King County. The suicide gesture group had an 81 percent higher accident rate, and a violation rate 146 percent higher than for a comparable group. Fewer of the drivers in the study group had records free of both accidents and violations. When compared to the population, the study group had more violations for drunken driving, reckless driving, hit and run, driving while suspended, and negligent driving. A smaller proportion of violations were found for speeding, failure to stop, improper turn, and disobeying road signs. The study group also had a higher proportion of accidents that resulted in injury than did the others.

Additional studies demonstrate that psychological deficiencies are a tell-tale of high accident involvement. Haner devised psychological inventories which enabled him to predict good and poor risks among youthful drivers, so that the Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company in Des Moines was able to reduce insurance premiums on good risks and still profit. 19 Schuster and Guilford developed inventories which correlated significantly with subsequent accidents and violations.

Farmer's Mutual Reinsurance Company has used a 300 - question personality inventory in assigning premium risks to 4,000 male drivers under 25.20 Using profiles of frustration and aggressiveness, impulsiveness, and acceptance of social responsibility, they can predict accident frequency at a .01 statistical level. Nearly 90 percent of license revocations for traffic violations involved persons previously assigned to the three highest premium categories.

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