This article’s primary purpose was to examine the associations of personality characteristics with self-reported and observed driving outcomes. The results of this study support past research, demonstrating a clear association between personality characteristics and self-reported driving behavior. This study adds to past research by showing that personality characteristics are associated with both self-reported and observed driving outcomes and behaviors. Past research has shown an association between personality measures and self-reported crashes or offenses (Iversen & Rundmo, 2002
; Sümer, 2003
), but none could be found that used official records to obtain outcome variables, or that used ticketed offenses as an outcome of personality characteristics. The associations found between personality characteristics and offenses measured by official records are all the more impressive given that illegal driving behaviors that are ticketed are relatively rare events, and represent a small fraction of all illegal driving behaviors committed.
This study did not find many associations between personality characteristics and crashes. This could be the result of the rare nature of crashes, which happen much less frequently than offenses, and measurement error that results from the many non-systematic factors that contribute to crash occurrence. Crashes are also less specific to individual person factors than are offenses, with not all parties involved in a crash sharing equal responsibility. Singly or together, these and other factors may have reduced the ability to detect associations between personality characteristics and crashes. Nevertheless, offenses serve as a good proxy for crash risk, and were predictable.
Driving behaviors examined as outcomes in this study lend support to past research demonstrating that the association between personality characteristics and driving behavior is mediated through attitudes and other behaviors (Iversen & Rundmo, 2002
; Sümer, 2003
; Ulleberg & Rundmo, 2003
). Specifically, this study indicated that personality characteristics predicted driving behaviors such as high-risk driving, risk-taking driving, and drink/driving. These behavioral variables are known to contribute to crashes, and provide an intermediate target for interventions to reduce motor vehicle crashes.
The identification of personality characteristics that are associated with driving behavior provide the opportunity to develop interventions that are designed to change the way a person reacts to specific personality characteristics. Many interventions have attempted to reduce risky driving, with little success. This lack of success may be the result of poor targeting, or of using an overly homogeneous intervention to change behaviors whose determinants are complex, heterogeneous across individuals, and that tend to be person-specific (Iversen & Rundmo, 2002
). This study identifies specific personality characteristics related to risky driving. These personality characteristics could be used to match interventions to individuals, thereby providing a closer link between intervention message and purpose, and the characteristics of the person receiving the intervention. In today’s fast-growing technological world, the development of interventions that are computer-tailored in real time to address the characteristics of individual recipients is feasible, and is being used in an increasing number of settings and to address many different behaviors (Ausems et al., 2002
; Carlson et al., 2000
; August et al., 2001
; Chiauzzi et al., 2005
; Cummins et al., 2003
; Werch, 2001
; Werch et al., 2005
). This approach may also show promise for tailoring driving safety interventions to individuals.
The results of this study and others (Iversen, Rundmo, 2002
; Sümer, 2003
; Ulleberg & Rundmo, 2003
) are suggestive of underlying processes that take place over time, but because this research is cross-sectional, one can only guess what are those processes and their temporal sequencing. Longitudinal research provides the means to examine the processes leading from personality and psychological characteristics to attitudes, then to driving behavior, and finally to crashes. The information such research could provide would be valuable in the design and formulation of interventions to assist people in responding to their personality-based proclivities with behavior that does not place themselves and others at risk of injury and death.
Future research should also examine the broader context of driving, and how that context interacts with individual personality characteristics to result in risky driving behavior. Some evidence suggests that high-risk driving might be decreased by altering the driving environment so that common triggers of high-risk driving behaviors are removed (Shinar et al., 2004
; Shinar & Compton, 2004
). Identification of the associations, their variability across personality characteristics, and the likely triggers of risky driving would provide information that could then be used in many aspects of transportation, including policy, roadway design, traffic flow controls, enforcement, and in the development of programmatic interventions to reduce risky driving.