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How do significant others influence our driving style?

By Lisa Dorn: Founder, PsyDrive

Module 4 of the Level 2 Human Factors and Road Risk Management programme covers a key topic that affects road risk – that of individual differences. The course considers how we differ from each other in the way we drive, especially the role of other people as an influence on our driving behaviour. ‘Significant others’ are the people around us that matter most and they have a major role to play in how we drive. This blog considers the main influences, that of our peers, parents and people at work.

Peer Influence on Driving Style

Adolescents are highly motivated to be part of a social group and often behave in ways they perceive to be acceptable and expected by their peers. Driving behaviour can be influenced when an individual thinks that their friends want them to take risks like driving too fast. For example, studies have shown that being in a group of friends who text and send messages whilst driving can lead to this behaviour being copied. The more a young driver believes their friends approve of and engage in texting while driving the more they believe it is OK, and the stronger their intention to engage in these behaviours (Nemme et al, 2010). In a qualitative analysis, Green and Dorn (2008) found that young people may model their driving on friends and relatives that speed, or drink and drive. A 'good driver' emerged in the study as someone who can drive at speed while still maintaining control of the vehicle - and fathers were the main source of modelling.

Parental Influence on Driving Style

Parents not only give their children a model for life but also model how to drive. In a longitudinal study, higher levels of parental monitoring, nurturance, and family connectedness tended to lower the rates of serious traffic offences and crashes, while parents’ more lenient attitudes toward young people’s drinking tended to raise the rates of serious traffic offences and crashes (Shope et al, 2001). In another study of 174 parent-child pairs, it was found that parents’ driving attitudes and behaviour predicted their children’s driving behaviour, even when controlling for mileage, demographic and life-style factors (Bianchi and Summala, 2004). The research suggests that parents must not just advise their children to drive safely, they also need to abide by the traffic rules and regulations themselves to set a good example.


Safety Culture and Driving Style

Work colleagues are also ‘significant others’ that can influence driving style and contribute to a negative safety culture. How an organisation learns, improves, and manages fleet driver safety provides an insight into their safety culture. Managers create the norms and values with respect to fleet safety, and these serve to motivate or demotivate safe behaviours when driving for work. Maintaining good relationships at work is important for success as well as job satisfaction and colleagues provide a major source of social support and solidarity in the workplace. Underpinning the safety culture is the power of the work group as a modelling network for fleet drivers. Increasingly, organisations are recognising the importance of developing a positive safety culture for managing driver safety at work and making significant changes to management practices. Management practices for goods transport are related to decreasing levels of crash risk for trucking companies (Nævestad et al, 2019)


Developing your knowledge and skills in Human Factors

As part of the Human Factors and Road Risk Management programme, road safety practitioners and professionals learn new models and theories on the Human Factors for managing road risk. The programme is delivered online over 2 full days by Dr Lisa Dorn and includes approximately 15 hours of learning material including a pre-read workbook. The course encourages active, value-driven discussions and is tailored to the specific interests of the delegates attending.


The next Level 2 course runs on 10th and 11th July and 3rd and 4th December 2024. For more information, click here: -


Book your place by completing the form here: -



Bianchi, A., and Summala, H. (2004). The “genetics” of driving behavior: parents’ driving style predicts their children’s driving style. Accident Analysis & Prevention36(4), 655-659.


Nemme, H. E., and White, K. M. (2010). Texting while driving: Psychosocial influences on young people's texting intentions and behaviour. Accident Analysis & Prevention42(4), 1257-1265.


Shope, J. T., Elliott, M. R., Raghunathan, T. E., and Waller, P. F. (2001). Long‐term follow‐up of a high school alcohol misuse prevention program's effect on students' subsequent driving. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research25(3), 403-410.


Green. A., and Dorn, L (2008). How Do ‘Significant Others’ Influence Young People’s Beliefs About Driving? In L. Dorn (Ed). Driver behaviour and training vol 3. Routledge.


Nævestad, T. O., Laiou, A., Phillips, R. O., Bjørnskau, T., and Yannis, G. (2019). Safety culture among private and professional drivers in Norway and Greece: Examining the influence of national road safety culture. Safety5(2), 20. 


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