Successful driving through successful coaching – 250-388-6638 – Driving School in Victoria BC Canada

Fuel for the Mindful Driver- over-estimating ability

Posted in Fuel for the Mindful Driver, Questions and Answers

FUEL FOR THE MINDFUL DRIVER – Our biases lead to over-estimating our ability in adverse conditions

This paper was written for winter driving, but the same applies for driving in rain and at night or on narrow roads.  In general, we tend to assume that we are better drivers than we really are, and we fail to adjust for deteriorating road conditions.

Driving in Rain, Sleet, or Snow? Cognitive Biases Worsen Winter Driving

Psychological scientists have long known that people generally tend to view their skills in optimistic terms—regardless of how their abilities actually hold up in reality. In a recent article published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, Ethan Zell of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Zlatan Krizan of Iowa State University looked at dozens of studies evaluating people’s insight into their own skills and abilities…

…They note, for example, that we’re more likely to overestimate how good we are at a task when we’re not very skilled at it, a phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. So people who are inexperienced with winter driving may not have the capacity to assess how inept they really are.

And we often rely on potentially misleading memories of past performance as the basis for estimating our current abilities, which is particularly problematic when we go long stretches without driving in the snow.

“When people provide self-assessments before the criterion, their judgments are likely based on memories of past experiences with the task, which may be biased by memory decay and the desire to remember one’s performances positively,” Zell and Krizan write.

Zell and Krizan found that people are far more accurate about assessing their skills when they receive accurate feedback. But drivers rarely receive any formal or official feedback about their driving, making it difficult for them to accurately assess their winter driving skills until it’s too late.”


Drivers who have developed empathy for their fellow road users adjust their speed sooner, and make these adjustments more often.

I teach my students empathy along with skills and rules. I also also teach how to anticipate the worst and then hope for the best.  Our in-car lessons provide for immediate feedback, and for practical experience in planning for and adjusting to both driving conditions and other drivers.

Even though a lot of N drivers feel they can take their class 5 road test without a brush-up lesson, I advise at least one more before the test. It is a good opportunity to make sure that all the skills once learned are still executed properly, and to get feedback. With at least 2 years of driving experience, students benefit greatly from being taught to view their driving from the point of the other drivers around them one more time.

The concept of Mindful Driving is key to success as a safe and confident driver.