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Bad drivers, you're not attractive

By Kyle Linsay
Friday, August 28, 2015 - 09:00

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Bad driving significantly reduces levels of attractiveness in potential partners, with women finding it particularly off-putting, found the first ever scientific study into driving skills and desirability conducted by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM).

Finally answering the long-debated question about whether poor driving skills put a dampener on romance, the experiment found bad drivers to be 50% less attractive than motorists with good skills.

The IAM teamed up with prominent behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings for the study. Candidates were shown videos of both good and bad driving whilst being tested for their levels of attraction towards the driver using pulse rate, pupil dilation, blink rate and body language.

Attractiveness dropped from 4.8 to 2.8 in women proving the most significant reduction, with 84% of candidates reporting more negative feelings towards the driver after experiencing their incompetence on the road.

The pulse rate of 60% of female candidates increased whilst watching bad driving manoeuvres, with a 20% increase for a third indicating a significant rise in stress levels.

And it’s the aggressive and confrontational manoeuvres that were found to be most unattractive to women – with road rage, illegal overtaking and tailgating topping a list of gaffes that provoke the strongest negative reactions.

In contrast, reactions in men were found to be less significant, with just over a quarter (28%) reporting a dislike for the driver after seeing them behind the wheel.

Body language indicators showed that for men, instead of stress, frustration was the overwhelming response. Candidates were found to frown, become agitated and shift position as they watched videos of parking, turning the car around or other examples of distracted or preoccupied behaviours.

Behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings explains: “There is no doubt that across the board most candidates, and nearly all of the women, found bad driving to be a turn-off.

However, it’s interesting to look at the reactions of different genders. Some male reactions to bad driving included laughter and amusement, indicating that men have a less mature emotional response to bad driving than women who instead furrowed their brows and shook their heads.”

Top 5 driving behaviours that turn off women

Illegal overtaking
Road rage
Bad parking
Texting whilst driving
3 point turn

Top five driving behaviours that turn off men

Three point turn
Talking selfies at the wheel
Texting whilst driving
Driving the wrong way round a roundabout
Bad parking
The experiment follows independent research by the IAM which uncovered bad driving as one of the UK’s biggest first date turn-offs. Road rage was the worst first-date faux pas for almost half (46%) of Brits, whilst a similar number say texting at the wheel leaves them wanting to end a date then and there.

A further one in 10 (11%) are irritated by someone who takes 15 minutes to park, whilst an eighth of Brits (13%) find overly cautious drivers who go under the speed limit off-putting.

Jo Hemmings continued: “Overall the experiment supports the hypothesis that bad driving elicits strong instinctive responses, with a correlated effect on levels of desire. However, it’s evident that women have a stronger negative reaction to bad driving than men, and find bad drivers considerably less attractive as a result.”

The IAM’s chief executive, Sarah Sillars said: “The results from the survey piqued our interest, so we enlisted Jo and a team of scientists to put the science behind the theory. Bad driving not only has an impact on the safety of our roads, but can also affect your relationships. Being able to manoeuvre properly and drive carefully should be much higher up on people’s priorities.”

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