22 April, 2008

Better than average

They say 80% of the drivers consider themselves better drivers than their average peer, which is somewhat unlikely, unless the average is really, really bad. A usual explanation for this is that most people are over-confident about themselves and thus overestimate their skills and abilities.

However, another possible explanation is that it is hard to imagine an "average" person - as in off the pool of everyone. I think most people just imagine some random people who have cut them off, or even had an accident, or a near-accident with. Plus the respondents may remember some of their friends or relatives who drive really badly, making the respondent swear to never get into the car with them driving. And as very few people remember every single trip that went well, but most remember accidents or near-accidents quite vividly, it isn't surprising that when building up a picture of an "average driver" people mostly remember a set of bad* drivers and, often quite correctly, rank themselves as better ones.

*And even the best drivers may get into someone's "bad driver" list, because not everything is under the driver's control. A child runs unexpectedly onto the road, you slam the brakes causing the guy behind you to perform emergency braking, too, cursing you for not paying attention to the road. Perhaps he didn't even see the child, but it is you whom he'll blame for his scare moment.

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