It has been estimated that up to a third of all road traffic accidents involve somebody who is at work at the time.

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Archive for March, 2011

Car Insurance: Gender Inequality or Natural Born Boy Racers?

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Over the past few weeks, a debate has resurfaced and it is one that has raged for a number of years. Is the gender price difference on car insurance discriminatory? Well, the issue has now been settled by a EU ruling that has stated that insurers can no longer charge different premiums based on gender.

Yes! It is a victory for male drivers everywhere! But is it that simple? Were insurance companies justified in over-charging men for all these years? If men and women were to both take driver risk assessments, who would come off better?
It must have angered male drivers that they have to pay more than the fairer sex due to the stereotype of the boy racer. Unfortunately, official figures back up the insurance companies’ concerns.

Insurance is all about risk and unfortunately young men are a much greater liability. In 2009, 13% of drivers reported in accidents were young males (17-24 years old). In comparison, women of the same age bracket were involved in just 8%. This evidence suggests that male drivers would benefit from a driver risk assessment.

So is it discrimination if young men are a genuine risk? Would it be unfair for insurance companies to charge more for home insurance if you lived in a bad neighbourhood? No, again it’s all about risk.

It is a topic that can be argued long into the night, but unless we are all willing to pay a flat rate for insurance and pay the same as worse drivers, then perhaps the gender difference is fully justified.


Driving Risk Management offer in-vehicle Driver Risk Assessment.

Driver Development vs the Electric Car

Monday, March 21st, 2011

If you are looking into different ways of saving fuel costs, two options you will probably consider are driver development or changing to a more fuel-efficient car.

Driver development involves teaching the driver how to be more fuel efficient. Reports show that 10%-15% savings can be achieved through eco-driving.

But if that’s not enough, you could also look into changing the vehicle itself to something more fuel-efficient. It seems as if 2011 is set to be the year of the Electric Car, with every car manufacturer releasing or planning to release a hybrid or fully electric model over the next 12 months. We take a closer look at some of the emerging market leaders of the year so far.

The Chevrolet Volt: Making headlines in the U.S., the Chevrolet Volt has already been crowned 2011 Green Car of the Year at the LA Auto Show only a few months after its release.  Thanks to this and an increase in public demand, General Motors are planning on putting significant investment into the model.

The Nissan Leaf: Named the 2011 European Car of the Year, the Nissan Leaf has seen massive sales all around the world and has just arrived in the UK. With an all-electric, emission-free range of 100 miles, the Nissan Leaf is ideal for those looking to travel around the city in a clean and efficient manner.

The Smart for Two: SMART has also released an electric car to enormous fanfare. Like its petrol equivalent, the SMART ForTwo allows for easier parking, but now with the added bonus of being completely green.

The Toyota Prius: Thought strictly a hybrid, we couldn’t go without mentioning the model that is arguably responsible for transforming the market and increasing demands for greener cars. Constantly popular and ever in-demand, the Prius was and still is a market game-changer.

With fuel prices steadily going up, it is no surprise consumers are turning to electric models. Even major sedan manufacturers like BMW are noticing the trend and are producing greener models such as their electric, carbon fibre Megacity Vehicle, which is due for release next year.


Driving risk management for Driver Development courses.

How efficient driving can save companies money

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

With fuel prices going up and up, driving is rapidly becoming a major expense for companies. Those with fleets of lorries and vans are finding themselves especially hard hit, but there is a way that savings can be made with some simple fuel efficient driving rules.

Some are obvious, such as making sure your vehicles have regular MOTs, ensuring that the tyres are fully inflated and making sure the vehicle carries as little weight as possible. However seeing as many companies that use fleets work in logistics, saving weight isn’t always an option. There are some rules though, that if followed, can facilitate fuel efficient driving and therefore greatly save costs.

Driving speed is an important factor. As you’d expect, the faster you drive, the more fuel you burn so if you want to save money on your fleet, get your drivers to maintain a moderate pace. One way of doing this is to have a fuel consumption read-out, which allows the drivers to identify bad habits as well as keep track of consumption.

Changing to higher gears when the traffic allows, as well as avoiding heavy congestion, also provides savings, but there are little changes that can also assist fuel efficient driving. These include:

  • Not starting the engine until you’re ready to go
  • Driving smoothly, accelerate gently, anticipate
  • Cutting down on the air-con
  • Turn off heaters, demisters, headlights
  • Turning off the engine if you are stuck in a queue



For UK companies, Driving Risk Management offer a range of products and services to help you reduce your vehicle fleet running costs such as fuel efficient driving courses and high performance driving courses.

Elderly drivers : do they pose a greater or lesser risk?

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

There have been a number of highly publicised cases of elderly people driving “badly”, for example driving the wrong way on a motorway or at 9mph on a dual carriageway. Such cases have caused people to question the existing licensing rules for elderly drivers. Currently, older adults simply need to re-apply when they reach the age of 70 years old and inform the DVLA if they have any medical condition that may influence their driving abilities. Some have suggested that additional tests may be needed to reduce the risks of elderly drivers, but first it’s necessary to understand why the elderly are more collision prone.

There are some obvious reasons why older adults might be more at risk of causing a crash; deteriorating eyesight and motor control are two factors that may contribute, but they by no means provide a complete explanation. Indeed, much of the increased risk can be explained in terms of the psychological changes and cognitive decline that occurs in later life.

Driving is a highly complex activity, requiring the driver to allocate their attention to a range of different tasks but attention is one aspect of cognitive processing that declines in later life. Researcher Liisa Hakamies-Blomqvist has suggested that this may be one of the main contributory factors.

She asked older and middle-aged drivers whether they were aware of the risk of a collision before it occurred. For the middle-aged drivers 74% were aware, but only 66% of the older adults were aware. It seems that older drivers may find it difficult to monitor and pay attention to all the different aspects of driving. They are therefore not likely to notice a potential danger and would be unable to attempt to avoid an incident.

The cognitive decline that many older adults experience may also contribute to increased driving risk. Professor Timothy Salthouse from the University of Virginia is one of the leading experts in cognitive ageing. He has suggested that one of the main consequences of cognitive ageing is a decrease in the speed with which information can be processed. This means that older adults may take longer to notice a potential hazard and to then respond to it. Salthouse has also suggested that older adults find it difficult to process multiple pieces of information at the same time. Consequently they may tend to concentrate on one aspect of driving at a time. Given how rapidly things occur when driving, it’s easy to imagine how challenging driving would be if you could only pay attention to one thing at a time and slowly process that information before moving on to process the next piece.

Although there are a number of reasons why drivers become more accident prone in old age, there are actually some aspects of driving in which older drivers are less risky. For instance, the elderly are far less likely to drive after consuming alcohol and are more likely to wear prescription glasses whilst driving. Also, older adults are more likely to drive in a generally cautious manner. They are also less likely to speed, however this might also become a risky behaviour if speed drops too low, as has occurred in a number of cases.

While it’s clear that elderly drivers may be more accident prone, we do not know exactly why this is the case, and there are likely to be multiple reasons that contribute to the increased accident risk. How might we reduce this risk? There appear to be two strategies, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive. First, it may be possible to provide training to elderly drivers that can make them aware of the possible risks and to teach them techniques that help them to drive safely. Second, methods might be developed that allow the licensing authorities to identify elderly drivers that are more “at risk” of causing a collision. Such identification may then feed into decisions about renewing the driving licence of older adults.

Dr Victoria Bourne (BA Hons, DPhil)

 Consultant to Driving Risk Management Limited

Your fault or mine? The psychology of blame

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Imagine this situation: You are driving down a very narrow road and you accidentally clipped the wing mirror of a parked car. There was no damage to either car, so no harm done, but how would you react? Are you likely to blame yourself for not paying enough attention or for being too risky? Or would it be the fault of the person who parked the car, obviously too far out from the kerb!

Whether you tend to blame yourself or someone else for things that happen to you, most people will tend to be quite consistent in this behaviour. In 1966 a psychologist called Julian Rotter developed the locus of control scale. Locus of control refers to the beliefs that people have about why things happen to them.

There are two locus of control “personality” types: internal and external. Someone with an internal locus of control believes that they are responsible for their own actions and that they can control things that happen to them. So they would have believed that clipping someone’s wing mirror was their fault. Someone with an external locus of control believes that other people, or perhaps fate, determine the things that happen to them. So they would have blamed the person who parked the car rather than themselves.

The locus of control theory has been highly influential in psychology and has been applied to many different areas of research, including driving research. Özkan and Lajunen[i] developed the multidimensional traffic locus of control scale (T-LOC). The T-LOC is a questionnaire which presents sixteen potential causes for an incident to occur. For each cause the participant has to rate how likely it is that an collision that they were involved in could have been caused in that way.

They found that the T-LOC identified four different aspects of locus of control with regards to driving. One factor reflects the traditional internal locus of control where a driver is most likely to blame themselves for an accident. The other three dimensions were of different aspects of the external locus of control: other drivers, vehicle/environment and fate.

In addition to developing the T-LOC, Özkan and Lajunen also examined how the four different factors might be associated with risky driving behaviour. The “self”, or internal, T-LOC scale was the aspect most highly correlated with risky driving behaviour predicting the number of collisions, offenses and violations that a person committed. Someone who blames themselves is likely to drive in a riskier way. The external scale of “vehicle and environment” was also predictive of committing offenses and errors with those who blame the vehicle and environment being less likely to participate in risky driving. “Blaming other drivers” was only predictive of errors and “fate” did not predict any of the risky driving behaviours.

The same research group more recently looked at whether the T-LOC can predict whether people speed or not[ii]. When driving on a road with a 50 km/h speed limit none of the T-LOC scales were predictive of driving behaviour. However, relationships were found when people were driving on a road with a 90 km/h speed limit. People who are likely to blame their own driving behaviour for crashes were more likely to speed whereas those who tend to blame the vehicle and the environment were less likely to speed.

In many respects, locus of control is quite similar to a personality trait. This means that it is unlikely that you can simply “change” your locus of control type in order for you to reduce possible risky driving behaviours. An awareness of whether you tend to have an internal or an external locus of control may help you to better understand you own driving behaviours, especially if you are involved in a collision.

[i]Özkan and Lajunen (2005)

[ii]Warner et al (2010)

Dr Victoria Bourne (BA Hons, DPhil)

Consultant to Driving Risk Management Limited

Why drivers might continue to use handheld mobiles whilst driving

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Using a hand held mobile phone when you’re driving has been illegal in the UK for many years. This has been widely publicised and it would be difficult for any driver, especially one who drives as a part of their job, to admit not being aware of this law.


It’s now widely acknowledged that using a mobile phone, even with a legal hands free kit, reduces your ability to concentrate on driving and the chances of having a collision increase substantially. Despite considerable publicity associated with incidents involving serious injury or even death, why do some people continue to use mobile phones when they are driving?

Surprisingly, a large number of people admit to using their mobile phones illegally, with some surveys finding up to 60% of respondents admitting to regularly breaking the law. A recent study conducted in Australia believes that the explanation lies with the ‘Theory of Planned Behaviour’.

This theory suggests that there are three reasons why people behave in a particular way:

  • their attitudes towards the behaviour
  • their subjective norms and the amount that their behaviour might be influenced by others
  • their perceived behavioural control or their belief in how well they can carry out the behaviour


In addition to these behavioural components, it’s also possible that the driver’s personality and the driving situation may influence whether someone will use a mobile phone when driving.

Researcher Mark Rozario and colleagues asked participants to rate how likely they were to use a mobile phone in different situations; when either driving alone or with passengers and when either being early or late to arrive somewhere.

They found that people were more likely to use a mobile phone when driving alone, regardless of whether they were running late or whether they were on time to arrive at their destination.

When the research team considered the Theory of Planned Behaviour, they found that all three components were significantly correlated with a driver’s willingness to use a mobile phone whilst driving. If a driver believes mobile phone use is not harmful, if their subjective norms are highly influenced by others and if they believe that their driving skill does not decrease when using a mobile phone, they are far more likely to use one.

Although this finding suggests that there are three different reasons why people may be willing to use a mobile phone, neither being extraverted nor being neurotic was associated with mobile phone use.

Another study recently conducted at the University of Beijing examined whether it was possible to change a driver’s attitude towards mobile phone use whilst driving. The participants in the study were asked to drive two routes in a driving simulator, one whilst having a mobile phone conversation and then one without.

Half of the participants were then provided with training to increase their awareness and understanding of how their mobile phone use influenced their driving behaviour. They viewed a video of their driving in each situation, whilst a trainer gave them feedback on their behaviours and possible risks. Participants who received the feedback training had a significant reduction in their self-reported willingness to use a mobile phone whilst driving, and this change in attitude was still apparent a month after the feedback training was given.

So it seems clear that, by providing training and by raising the driver’s awareness of the issues of mobile phone usage whilst driving, it is possible to reduce the potential for incidents and collisions to occur.

Dr Victoria Bourne (BA Hons, DPhil)

Consultant to Driving Risk Management Limited