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Driver overconfidence contributes to traffic accidents

Although New York drivers have a bad reputation, the state has a lower death rate per mile driven compared to many other parts of the country. They likely still have a strong tendency to overestimate their driving skills because overconfidence afflicts most American motorists. This attitude makes most people believe that they are safe drivers.

One study surveyed American and Swedish drivers to measure possible international differences. Although more than 75 percent of Swedes reported that they were above average drivers in terms of safe practices, almost 90 percent of Americans gave themselves the same rating. When asked to rate their driving skills, roughly 66 percent of Swedes believed that they were above average, but an overwhelming majority of Americans described their skills as above average. The traffic death rate in Sweden is less than half of what it is in the United States.

Psychologists have known for a long time that people possess unrealistic views about their capabilities. Essentially, people tend to view themselves as above average in almost any category. Even hospitalized car accident victims who caused their own wrecks believe in their skills. Interviews of 50 people who flipped their vehicles after hitting stationary objects indicated that most people thought that their driving skills approached expert status.

The psychological tendency of people to see themselves as competent could contribute to denying fault after a car accident. Insurers looking to keep settlements low also create barriers for people injured because of other people's mistakes. A personal injury attorney could empower an injured person confronted by resistance and an insurance bureaucracy. An attorney could manage an accident investigation and organize evidence for a lawsuit.

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