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Survey suggests BMW drivers ‘most likely to show psychopathic traits’

Not the most scientific research, admittedly, but have a guess which brand‘s drivers rank second?

In findings that may not surprise regular readers of our Near Miss of the Day series showing close passes and the like by drivers on cyclists, a survey of 2,000 UK motorists suggests that people who drive BMWs, closely followed by Audi drivers, are most likely to be psychopaths.

Drivers of a range of makes and models of cars were asked to complete the ‘psychopath test’ which uses the answers to 12 questions of where they sit on the psychopathy scale, and thereby their likelihood of exhibiting abnormal, anti-social behaviour.

Now, psychopathy itself is a very serious psychological condition (see the end of this article) and we’re not going to kid ourselves that this is a peer-reviewed study published in a respected academic journal – in fact, it comes from the website Scrap Car Comparison, with the research conducted by 3Gem.

Moreover, with 20 car marques included, that’s an average of 100 drivers of each brand, hardly the biggest sample size, and rather than being based on any clinical assessment, the survey the results are derived from is based on multiple choice questions.

It does provide, however, a talking point, and it is certainly interesting that it’s drivers of the two brands most regularly called out by cyclists on social media, or on comments here, that top the list. Confirmation bias, anyone?

The results rank people on a scale running from 0-18 (no psychopathy) through 19-26 (psychopathy possible) and 27-36 (psychopathy likely), with the average score 6.6 (you can take the test yourself by following the link at the bottom of the blog page on the Scrap Car Comparison website – this writer scored 6).

BMW drivers scored an average of 12.1, with motorists driving Audi cars closely behind at 11.7 – both being the only marques significantly above average, with Fiat drivers in third place at 7.0, Mazda and Honda rounding out the top five at 6.4 and 6.3 respectively.

Even those highest average scores fall well within the ‘no psychopathy’ range, of course – although it may well be that some drivers scored higher.

The lowest scores, meanwhile, came from drivers of Toyota or Vauxhall cars, both on 4.7, followed by SEAT at 4.3, Kia at 4.2, and – bringing up the rear on 3.2, Skoda.

The results were also analysed by fuel type and colour of vehicle, and whether the car had a personalised number plate.

In terms of the former, people with electric cars scored 16.0, hybrids 9.8, diesel 7.0 and petrol 5.0.

Gold-coloured vehicles had the highest average score at 12.7, followed by brown at 12.2 – while silver, on 5.5 and red on 4.9 scored lowest (it’s worth pointing out here that silver is a very common paintjob on a BMW or Audi, given it is Germany’s traditional racing colour, as red is, say for Italy, or blue for France).

Meanwhile, owners of personalised number plates scored well over double what other drivers did, at 13.8 versus 5.3.

Dan Gick, managing director of Scrap Car Comparison said: “The popularity of true crime documentaries has resulted in a worldwide fascination with psychopaths. So, we were curious to discover whether there was any correlation between the car you drive and where you might sit on the psychopath scale.

“While our findings might back up some existing stereotypes of drivers who are unsafe on the road, it’s worth noting that none of the levels seen in our study were any cause for concern, and while certain TV shows or films might trivialise what it means it be a psychopath, it is a condition that should be taken seriously.

“For us, the number one priority is ensuring that whether you drive a BMW or a Skoda, you’re staying safe while driving so that your car doesn’t have to prematurely hit the scrap heap,” he added.

The company added at the end of its blog post:

While the findings from our study are interesting, and none of our drivers surveyed scored highly enough to suggest they do possess clear traits generally exhibited by a psychopath, psychopathy is a condition that affects lives, and therefore should be taken seriously.  

If you think you possess traits of psychopathy, or are worried about any of the themes or content discussed in this study, you can find more information and support at mind.org.uk.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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