Look out for extraverted older adults and conscientious or curious teens who get behind the wheel. Why? They may be more likely to engage in risky driving behavior, according to researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who have concluded that certain personality characteristics can predict distracted driving tendencies. Distracted driving, which can include anything from changing the radio station to texting, is a factor in about half of all car crashes, which translates to one million crashes that result in injuries. And 10 percent of those crashes result in fatalities. That is why it's important to understand more about distracted drivers.
The "Big Five" personality traits are:
  1. Openness to experience: inventive and curious vs. consistent and cautious
  2. Conscientiousness: efficient and organized vs. easy-going and careless
  3. Extraversion: outgoing and energetic vs. solitary and reserved
  4. Agreeableness: friendly and compassionate vs. analytical and detached
  5. Neuroticism: sensitive and nervous vs. secure and confident
The study: The UAB team targeted two driving age groups that tend to have the most dangerous driving practices: teenagers ages 16 to 19 and older adults ages 65 to 85. Some 120 volunteers who fit one of these two age group profiles completed the 45-item "Big Five" questionnaire to assess their own personality traits, as well as the Questionnaire Assessing Distracted Driving, or QUADD, which assesses the frequency of distracted driving behaviors. Teens who identified with the "openness to experience" personality trait also were more likely to text and use their cellphone while driving. Specifically, a 10 percent increase in openness was associated with a 22% increase in risk for distracted driving. In older adults, only one personality factor was significantly associated with distracted driving behaviors: extraversion. A 10 percent increase in extraversion scores translated to a 20 percent increase in instances of talking on or interacting with a phone.


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