The role of risk-propensity in the risky driving of younger and older drivers


Young drivers are over-represented in road injury statistics, partly because they engage in more risky driving than older people, perhaps as part of a broader "risky behaviour syndrome". Although it is assumed that younger people have greater risk propensity, defined as a positive attitude to risk, relevant theory is imprecise and relevant research is clouded by inappropriate measures. We aimed to compare younger and older drivers in terms of appropriate measures of risk propensity and related risk motivations, and to examine the association of these measures with risky driving. The study involved 89 participants aged 16-25, and 110 participants aged over 35, recruited outside motor registries, as well as 188 Psychology students (aged 16-25) recruited for course requirements, who completed questionnaires designed to measure risk aversion, risk propensity (general and in accident, health, financial and social domains), and risk-related motives for risky driving. Questionnaires also assessed selfreported risky driving and risky behaviour in health, financial and social domains. Compared to older drivers, younger drivers demonstrated lower risk aversion, higher propensity for accident, health and social risks, and stronger motives for risky driving in relation to experience-seeking, excitement, sensation-seeking, social influence, prestige-seeking, confidence/familiarity, underestimation of risk, irrelevance of risk, "letting off steam", and "getting somewhere". Further, these variables were associated with risky driving, which was also associated with risk propensity, and risky behaviour, in other domains. Results suggest targeting the "young driver problem" by aiming to reduce experience-seeking, excitement, sensation-seeking, confidence/familiarity, underestimation or risk, irrelevance of risk, and "letting of steam" motives for drinkdriving, and experience-seeking, excitement, sensation-seeking, and "letting off steam" motives for speeding, for both males and females, as well as irrelevance of risk motives for speeding and social influence motives for drink-driving for males only. For young females only, increasing prestige-seeking and social influence motives in relation to speeding may be beneficial.

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Type: Research and Analysis Report
Sub Type: Grant
Author(s): Hatfield J., Fernandes R.
Topics: Young drivers
Publication Date: 06/04/09