I’m Not An Idiot. Really.

93% of people who drive believe they’re better-than-average drivers.

Anybody else see the math problem here?

This came to mind yesterday, as I swore at the bone-headed stunts of other Calgary drivers.

I just spent three weeks in small-town Manitoba, and I did most of my driving on the wide-open four-lane TransCanada Highway.  Traffic is light in the winter, so the statistical probability of encountering an idiot driver is satisfyingly low.

Unless of course, I’m the idiot I’m trying to avoid.  More on that later.

The idiosyncrasies of small-town drivers don’t bother me.  There, I expect people to double- and triple-park, turn without signalling, and brake to a halt in the middle of the street for a visit with the driver of an oncoming vehicle.

What the heck, it’s a small town.  They don’t need to signal; everybody knows where they’re going.  On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, they’re going for coffee at the bake shop.  Saturday mornings, it’s breakfast at the café.  The last Friday of every month is pizza night at Joe’s.  No problem.

So I was shocked when I was forced to call somebody a butthead within two minutes of leaving my driveway here in Calgary.  I’d gotten out of the habit of muttering verbal abuse at other drivers.  But by the time I’d completed my one-hour trip, the habit was firmly reestablished.  Apparently Calgary has an extremely high population density of idiot drivers.

Hey, that sounds like a collective noun: a murder of crows; a density of idiots…

Anyway, when I went looking for driving statistics, I discovered this wiki on illusory superiority.  To grossly oversimplify the article:  the stupider you are, the more likely you are to believe you’re smart.  And the worse you are at a specific skill (like driving), the more likely you are to believe you’re good at it.

That explains a lot.  And it makes me nervous.

Despite my one-time nickname, “Fender Bender“, I’ve always thought I’m a pretty good driver.  I took a motorcycle safety course back in the 80s, and I’ve never lost those defensive driving habits.  Alert caution is a good idea when you can be effortlessly wiped off the road by anything, including a renegade Canada goose.  (True story – happened to a guy my husband knew.  The goose hit him in the chest and knocked him right off his bike.)

I won’t pretend I’ve never pulled a dumb move like signalling a turn and then changing my mind, or heading for a parking space only to find it’s occupied and I’m now at a ridiculous angle that requires an embarrassing 3-point turn to escape.

But on the whole, I think I’m okay.  I’ve been driving for more than 30 years.  I can’t remember the last time anybody honked at me.  My passengers don’t scream, lose sphincter control, and/or fling themselves out of the car.  I’ve never caused an accident.  (Well, except for last fall.  But that wasn’t because of my driving.)

So, really, I’m a good driver.

Or maybe that’s just wishful illusory superiority…

31 thoughts on “I’m Not An Idiot. Really.

  1. Im a decent driver as long as i know where im going and nothings changed…. its the “Oh babe by the way take that right over there and go into this store” that tend to make me lose it and its downhill from there.

    Oh and that idiot that races down the side lane and tries to cut in front of me rarely makes it…. when i see him coming im so far up the guys ass in front of me its probably an accident waiting to happen but theres no way hes getting in lol.


  2. Illusary superiority – love it! And the stupider people are the more likely they are to think they’re smarter than they are? Falls right in line with ignorance is bliss. Like my pet peeve is drivers who putz along in the passing lane on the interstate and then when you have to go around them and give them a look as you pass intended to mean “get over dumb-a*#,” they look back at you (if they even look at all) like, “what?” Clueless. Arrrrrrrgh. It’s just frightening to consider who we share the roads with. Seriously. 93% of them are, as you so aptly put it, performing bone headed stunts. Be safe.


    • Or there are the ones that rocket by you in the passing lane, only to jam on the brakes and swerve violently in front of you to get to the exit ramp that they could have safely and easily accessed if they’d just driven behind you for ten more seconds…

      Thanks for visiting and commenting!


  3. Here in the Washington DC area, I’ve noticed and documented an interesting phenominon: The average IQ of local drivers goes down in a direct, one-to-one relationship with the barometric pressure. To wit, if it rains or snows, most drivers lose between 5 and 10 points of their IQs. Now, some of these brain donors were really on the edge to start with, and taking a 10 point hit of their IQs tends to put them in the “Ding! Fries are done!” catagory… Let’s just say I try to stay off the roads when it rains around here, and it’s not because I don’t trust myself…


    • I think all vehicles should come with two extra features: a paint-pellet-shooting Gatling gun, and a neon ‘Sorry’ sign. That way, the bad drivers could be easily identified by their paint-splattered cars, and, on the rare occasion that we “good” drivers make a bone-headed mistake, we could apologize. 🙂


  4. I am firmly in the 7%. I know my driving skillset is somewhat lacking. While I’ve never gotten a ticket for a moving violation, I can say that Tom’s (above) “lane 1 lane 2 turn left lane . . etc” looks too much like the matrix math class I dropped in college. And that is why I now have a chauffeur (my husband). Trouble is, he’s convinced he’s the only sane driver on the entire planet. 😉


    • In that case, you probably don’t want to point him to the illusory superiority article. We sane drivers don’t take kindly to having our illusions destroyed, and you wouldn’t want to lose your chauffeur. 🙂


  5. LOL, Diane. Yes, do you realize that in this day and age, with all the modern education and tools at our disposal that half the people in the country (choose your country) are below average? I mean, something should be done about it.

    You also brought up one of my pet subjects, naming groups of people. No, no, not those sort of names, but like the murder of crows. For example, do you have a clutch of motorists? Or a body of pathologists?

    Best of all is “illusory superiority.” Boy do I have that. I think I’m an ok driver. I mean, people are always having accidents around me, but I don’t seem to have accidents. Just to make sure I travel down the freeway at a steady 25mph – because you see no end of people swerving all over the road and having crashes. I am sure you’re a good driver though 😉

    Thanks for a good laugh, Diane.



    • LOL! Yes, the proportion of “averageness” in our countries is shocking! And I love your “clutch of motorists”!

      Wow, you must be an excellent driver to avoid all those accidents. Consistency is the key, right? 🙂


  6. The same thing occurs to me whenever I stumble upon American Idol auditions. All those people think they can sing, and most of them…well, can’t. Then I wonder if the same thing applies to writing. What if I only think I can write?

    And then I go have a drink and say screw it.


  7. I wouldn’t say I’m the best driver in the world, Diane, but I appear to be a lot better than a lot of other drivers… yesterday, for instance, (have you noticed there is always a driving story when you talk about other people’s driving?) I was waiting to turn left at a junction (there are three lanes at this junction; lane 1 to turn left only, lane 2 to turn left into lane 2 of the other road or go straight ahead, and lane 3 is to turn right). I was waiting patiently in lane 2 to turn left, and when I could go, a woman in lane 3 turned left in front of me causing me to brake heavily. She could have caused a multiple pile up (the butthead – love that phrase!). She was completely oblivious as to what she had done – she was fluffing her hair up as she was driving.
    Times and places, please! I fluff my hair up only when there aren’t any other vehicles about.
    I’m in the 7% I think. But I am still better than some…


    • The good news is that (according to the wiki anyway) if you think you aren’t that good at something, there’s a possibility you might actually be better at it than you think… or you may be right… aagh!

      Down with hair-fluffing butthead drivers! 🙂


  8. I never assume I’m decent at things. Then I’m acutely embarrassed when I find out I’m not. That includes driving, teaching, or understanding how to do things.


    • Yes, there’s nothing worse than that “D’oh” moment. I’m told it happens even to people the rest of us would consider “experts”, so I’m trying to be philosophical about the whole thing.

      I’m waiting for my friends to comment on this post in the vein of “Your driving has always sucked, but I was too polite to tell you.” It’s the ripping-off-the-bandaid school of self-discovery. 🙂

      Thanks for visiting and commenting.


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