British drivers say they’re the safest in wet conditions. Hmm.

A few weeks ago, we came across an eyeball-catching title on Tyre Trade News:

Goodyear Winter Driving Attitudes Survey: New Research Finds British Drivers the Masters of Wet Weather Driving

We recommend you check the original article out, but if you don’t have time, here’s the summary:

  • Goodyear carried out a survey of attitudes towards, and perceptions of winter driving across eight European countries.
  • The 4000 participants were also asked abouttheir knowledge regarding summer, winter and all-season tyres.
  • Resuts showed that “British drivers are the most comfortable in heavy rain…just one in ten (12%) [sic] drivers from Britain said they were comfortable driving in heavy rain.

Well, that would make sense, given that in the UK, it seems to be bucketing it down about 80% of the time.

However, before we take that headline for granted, there’s an interesting issue with these types of surveys…

Most people can’t be above average drivers

The obvious problem with Goodyear’s survey is that it’s only assessing how confident people are with particular driving conditions, not their actual ability to drive in those conditions. And there may be less of a connection than you think.

For a start off, there’s good reason to think most people over-estimate their driving ability compared to others. You can test this out for yourself: ask a bunch of friends, colleagues and so on if they see themselves as:

  • worse-than-average drivers
  • average drivers
  • better-than-average drivers.

…then see how many in each category you get.

Tried it? Bet you end up with more in the better-than-average category.

Now of course, it’s always possible that you hang out with rally drivers and driving instructors,who really are better than average. But on a larger scale, many researchers have found the same thing: the majority of us rate our driving as above average.

Obviously, by definition, most people can’t be better than average. And what this means is that an awful lot of us overestimate our driving ability compared to others.

More confidence = more ability?

OK, we’re rubbish at judging how good our driving is compared to others. But surely, we’re not completely blind to our own limitations? Surely, really confident drivers are basing their perception on something.

Don’t bank on it.

For years, researchers have been looking  carefully at the connection between confidence and driving ability. Generally speaking, they either find there’s no connection, or there’s a negative one: in other words, very confident drivers are actually less safe. There are several reasons for this, including overestimating how much control they have, and underestimating the effect of impairments such as fatigue.

We’re always being told that nervous drivers cause more crashes, but maybe we should take that with a pinch of salt.

So… British drivers in the rain

What we really need is a study, or at least some stats, comparing how well British drivers perform in wet conditions. If these exist, we’re unable to find them.

What we do know is that overall, the UK has remarkably safe roads. A comparison of accident statistics comparing European countries has us in second place — only Sweden has a lower number of road fatalities.

How much of that comes down to wet weather driving skills is anyone’s guess.

One last thing from the Goodyear survey

One thing we can safely say from the Goodyear survey is that Brits aren’t very good on knowing their tyres. Apparently:

Only 45% of British drivers were confident they knew the difference between season-specific and all-season tyres

If you’re in South Oxfordshire and you want great tyre advice on the best tyres for your vehcile, reach out to us at BK Tyres!

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