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A psychological predictor of elders' driving performance: social-comparisons on the road


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Becca R. Levy, Social and Behavioral Sciences Division, Yale School of Public Health, 60 College Street, PO Box 208034, New Haven, CT 06520-8034, USA. E-mail:


Older individuals often believe they can drive better than their contemporaries. This belief is an example of downward social-comparisons; they can be self-enhancing tools that lead to beneficial outcomes. As predicted, we found that drivers who engaged in downward social-comparisons were significantly less likely to have adverse driving events over time, after controlling for relevant factors (p = .02). This effect was particularly strong among women, who tend to experience more negative driving stereotypes (p = .01). The study was based on 897 interviews of 117 elder drivers, aged 70–89 years, over 2 years. Our findings suggest that interventions to reduce adverse driving events among elders could benefit from including a psychological component.