Jekyll and drive

Article date: 10 July 2009

Britain is a nation of "Jekyll and Drivers" according to psychological research released today that reveals 40% of us experience a radical personality change when we get behind the wheel: nearly two thirds (61%) become more aggressive and take greater risks, whilst 39% actually become quieter and overly cautious when they hit the road.

Over 4,000 motorists took part in the study, commissioned by the UK’s largest insurer Aviva, the new name for Norwich Union, in conjunction with Professor Geoff Beattie, head of the school of psychological science at the University of Manchester, to uncover and analyse our driving personalities and behaviour on Britain’s roads.

Drivers were categorised into nine personality types with over one in six (16%) of respondents revealed as “racing drivers”, admitting to disregarding the speed limit and overtaking in built up areas and on rural roads. Nearly a quarter of motorists admitted to sometimes receiving phone calls whilst at the wheel and a third to driving fast in order to impress others.

Male behaviour is the worst on the road, with male drivers being twice more likely to disregard a red light on an empty road than female drivers. 42% of male drivers also admit to undertaking compared to just over a third of females. The most aggressive drivers on the road are aged 17-21, but motorists do seem to gradually mellow with age as two thirds of over 50s suggest they become quieter and more cautious behind the wheel.

Professor Geoff Beattie commented: “The research demonstrates that people just don’t seem to know their own personalities when it comes to driving. When we asked people to think more carefully about how they actually behave on the road, the realisation dawned that their natural reactions are not quite what they thought they were.”

Nearly half of all drivers were more likely to display “conformist” (47%) tendencies such as the typically British trait of blaming themselves for other people’s mistakes and accepting responsibility for an accidents caused by someone else’s recklessness. Only 23% of motorists were genuine “realists”, unbiased, realistic and aware of where any fault lies when driving.

Adam Cracknell, spokesperson for Aviva added: “It’s important that motorists are honest with themselves about how they really behave when driving. Simple tips like not driving too close to the car in front of you, being courteous in busy traffic and indicating clearly can all help to remove the stress from driving and can help prevent both over aggression and over cautiousness on the roads.”  

The research results contrasted sharply with drivers’ perceptions of their behaviour before they took the test. 41% of drivers believed that they were sensible and courteous “realists” (41%), 16% thought they were low risk “steady eddies” and 11% thought they were occasional risk taking “opportunists”.

Wales has the highest proportion of "Jekyll and Drivers"  - with nearly half claiming to be sensible behind the wheel, but under testing two thirds were revealed to behave in a more aggressive manner when driving. Londoners are the greatest show offs, with 40% admitting to driving fast in order to show others that they can handle a car and 55% disregarding speed limits more than any other region.

What type are you?

“The Realist” – You sometimes like to take risks but can forgo this pleasure. You are not overly cautious in your driving and fairly realistic about your experiences behind the wheel.  You will sometimes jump amber lights.

“The Steady Eddie” You do not like taking risks. You know that you can sometimes make mistakes but also know other people can make mistakes too. You are likely to stick to the speed limit.

“The Racing Driver” – You love risk and adrenaline but are unbiased in what you think about your driving and any mistakes that you might make. You like to drive fast and take risks. Examples of your behaviour include breaking the speed limit and overtaking other drivers.

“The Chancer” – You take a lot of risks in your driving and typically blame other people and the situation for any negative outcomes. Driving gives you a buzz which means that you drive fast, impulsively and aggressively. Examples of your behaviour include blind overtaking and tailgating.

“The Opportunist” – You sometimes like to take risks and believe that these risks are justified because there are a lot of bad drivers on the road.  Examples of your behaviour include overtaking drivers who are driving too slowly or erratically.

“The Worrier” – You don’t take risks at all, as you believe that other people don’t have the driving competence that you do. You would prefer to avoid the road at all costs if possible. Examples of your behaviour include slowing down far too early for traffic lights just in case they change colour.

“The Thrill Seeker” – You think you are a born risk taker. You believe that anything that happens on the road is solely down to you. You don’t look to blame others in any situation and believe that you are in control of your own destiny. Examples of your behaviour include disregarding speed limits, jumping red lights on deserted roads and overtaking blindly.

“The Conformist” – Your driving is characterised by medium levels of risk. You tend to see yourself as responsible for driving and things that go wrong on the road and believe that you are personally to blame for any accidents or bangs. Examples of your behaviour include adhering to speed limits in built up areas.

“The Snail” - You take risks very rarely and have a tendency to see yourself as responsible for activity on the road. You may sometimes be overly cautious much to the annoyance of other drivers. Examples of your behaviour include driving under the speed limit.


For media enquiries, please contact: 
Adam Cracknell, Aviva’s UK Insurance press office
Telephone: 01603 684 916

Andrew Olley, Hill and Knowlton
Telephone: 0207 413 3139

Notes to editors:

Study Methodology: The study involved examining motorists’ self perception of their personality behind the wheel and comparing this with their profile of in-car behaviour and assessment of motoring scenarios through the completion of two separate questionnaires.

Aviva, the international savings, investments and insurance group, is the world’s fifth largest insurance group, serving 50 million customers across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.

In the UK, Aviva is a leading provider of life, pensions, investment, general insurance and health products to more than 20 million customers.  We also provide roadside assistance through the RAC.  Products are distributed through a number of channels including IFAs, brokers, corporate partners and direct to customers via the internet.

Aviva's UK Insurance business has a market share of around 15%, making it the largest general insurer in the UK. The business is focused on insurance for individuals and small businesses.

Aviva’s news releases and a selection of images are available from the internet press centre at

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