That ‘ethnic driver accidents’ stereotype? It’s wrong 

Good piece citing relevant studies:

“Everyone knows who the culprits are that are driving up our rates but no one has the guts to come and say it. Don’t give me the argument that there are no stats on this.”

Well, we all know the colour of this particular elephant in the room. It’s not white. And anyone who overhears casual conversation knows the stereotype to which the coded language refers — all those inherently terrible Asian drivers.

I hate to be the bearer of news but first, there’s no coverup and, second, that elephant is a chimera, that is, something that may be devoutly wished for by someone but which turns out to be an illusion.

There are some statistics, just not from Metro. The Insurance Corporation of B.C. does not track accident statistics according to ethnicity. But then, why should it?

However, there is third-party research into what’s essentially an ethnic stereotype: that adult immigrants are unsafe drivers and responsible for more road crashes than long-time residents.

The study was centred on Metro Toronto, one of the most ethnically diverse populations in Canada. It looked at the driving records of more than four million drivers and set out to discover whether recent immigrants represented any increased risk of involvement as drivers in serious motor vehicle accidents.

It was published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

Contrary to popular opinion, it turns out, recent immigrants are actually better drivers than the native-born scofflaws who like to speed, race the amber lights at intersections, change lanes abruptly without signalling, smoke, eat and drink hot coffee while at the wheel and other common transgressions.

Traffic slowly moves over the Lions Gate Bridge between Stanley Park and the North Shore. Contrary to popular opinion, says columnist Stephen Hume, recent immigrants are actually better drivers than the native-born drivers who like to speed, race the amber lights at intersections, change lanes abruptly without signalling and other common offences.
Traffic slowly moves over the Lions Gate Bridge between Stanley Park and the North Shore. Contrary to popular opinion, says columnist Stephen Hume, recent immigrants are actually better drivers than the native-born drivers who like to speed, race the amber lights at intersections, change lanes abruptly without signalling and other common offences. DARRYL DYCK /  THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Hot coffee? Oh, yes, counterintuitive as it may be, a study done by the U.S. government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concludes that hitting the drive-through for a jolt of morning java increases your odds of an accident by 80 per cent. Furthermore, the researchers found, 65 per cent of near-miss accidents result from drivers fiddling with food and drink.

In fact, the agency found, drinking hot coffee puts drivers at the greatest risk for distraction while driving. It turns out drinking hot coffee at the wheel is worse than using your cellphone or, speaking of distractions, reaching for the radio to dial up Bruce Allen’s latest rant about cyclists.

Yet it’s not coffee-drinking commuters who draw ire.

“A frequently blamed group of drivers are adult immigrants as typified by negative stereotypes,” the researchers found. “Such beliefs” — stop me if you’ve heard this — “are based on the person’s presumed lack of familiarity with geographic locations, roadway layout, prevailing laws, common customs, local signage, social etiquette, basic skills or language idioms.”

One trope is the recurring anecdote about foreign-looking drivers looking lost, being inconsiderate of traffic etiquette and delaying or putting other commuters at risk with their driving and parking ineptitude.

Why is this? The researchers sought explanations in psychology. They discovered that when traffic is congested and drivers feel late rather than relaxed they display heightened selfishness, diminished graciousness toward others and increased reliance on stereotypes to explain their situation.

“Second, the anonymity of driving provides little deterrence against outbursts of bigotry.”

And finally, people justify their own driving errors as a result of their situation while judging other drivers’ mistakes as latent traits.

Among the million Metro residents of Asian descent there are doubtless a few bad drivers. The published research indicates, however, that the proportion of bad drivers is greater in the long-term population than among recent immigrants.

In the Toronto study, researchers examined accidents and hospital admissions with traffic injuries and compared the rates among a million recent immigrants with those for long-term residents.

“Recent immigrants were less likely to be drivers involved in a serious motor vehicle crash compared to long-term residents,” the study says. “Findings suggest that recent immigrants contribute to fewer serious road crashes than the population norm.”

Source: That ‘ethnic driver accidents’ stereotype? It’s wrong | Vancouver Sun

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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