PhotoA new study out of McGill University has focused on the behaviors of risky drivers in an effort to better understand what makes them tick. The results suggest that these drivers, which include those who have tendencies to speed and drive while drunk, have distinct behavioral, personality, and neurobiological profiles that make them more likely to engage in these types of risky behavior.

Additionally, the study reveals that there is a disconnect between the drivers’ behaviors and how they view themselves as risk-takers in general. This, the researchers note, can be detrimental to efforts to correct or improve this behavior.

“Surprisingly, these drivers usually don’t consider themselves as risk takers. ... If drivers don’t believe they are risky, they will not accept the need to change,” said Thomas G. Brown, lead author of the study. “On the other hand, if we and they don’t understand their behavior, how can they expected to change it effectively?”

Understanding behaviors

In order to gain a better understanding, Brown and his colleagues examined four groups of men between the ages of 19 and 39. Three of the groups had distinguishing characteristics for risky driving behaviors and the fourth represented a control group of low-risk drivers.

The first group was made up of drivers who had been convicted of drunk driving on two separate occasions; the second group was comprised of individuals who had been caught speeding or committed another moving violations on three or more occasions in the past two years; the third group contained individuals who had engaged in both of these behaviors.

The researchers tested each of these groups for various factors, including their tendencies to consumer drugs and alcohol, act impulsively, seek out rewards and thrills in their decision-making, and learn from past mistakes to improve behavior.

The results showed that each group fit into a particular emotional and behavioral profile. In other words, individuals that repeatedly partake in one of these risky driving behaviors do so because of deep-seated reasons tied to the very nature of who they are.

Developing prevention strategies

The researchers believe that creating prevention strategies tailored to these profiles is the key to success. For example, they point out that drunk drivers would benefit from strategies that force them to recall the negative effects of drinking whenever they plan to drive.

“This might involve a strategy in which the driver mentally rehearses his plan for a night out when drinking is likely, specifically targeting how to avoid decision-making about driving once under the influence of alcohol,” said Brown.

The full study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.