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Social desirability effects in driver behavior inventories

Journal of Safety Research
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.jsr.2010.02.005
  • Social Desirability
  • Accident
  • Crash
  • Self-Report
  • Methodology
  • Education


Abstract Problem The use of lie scales to control for common method variance in driver behavior inventories has been very limited. Given that such questionnaires often use self-reported safety variables as criteria, and have social implications, the risk of artefactual associations is high. Method A questionnaire containing scales from several well known driver inventories that have been claimed to predict traffic accident involvement was distributed three times to a group of young drivers in a driver education program, as well as a random group twice. The Driver Impression Management scale (DIM) was used to control for socially desirable responding. Results For all behavior scales, the correlation with the DIM scale was substantial. If a scale correlated with self-reported crashes, the amount of predictive power was more than halved when social desirability was controlled for. Results were similar for both samples and all waves. The predictive power of the behavior scales was not increased when values were averaged over questionnaire waves, as should have been the case if the measurement and predictive power were valid. Results were similar for self-reported penalty points. The present results indicate that even the most well-known and accepted psychometric scales used in driver research are susceptible to social desirability bias. Discussion As social desirability is only one of a number of common method variance mechanisms that can create artefactual associations, and the great popularity of the self-report methodology, the problem for traffic research is grave. Impact on industry Organizations that fund traffic safety research need to re-evaluate their policies regarding what methods are acceptable. The use of self-reported independent and dependent variables can lead to directly misleading results, with negative effects on traffic safety.

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