Presence of Passengers; The positive impact on drivers


The rise of the internet gave us a place that enables us to stay connected with our peers on daily basis and a place where the power of other people’s judgement over our own is well documented. Behavior that is seen from our peers, serves as a valuable cue to determine which type of behavior or judgment is objectively accurate and suitable in a certain social environment for us to take over. In order for us to evaluate the need for an adjustment in our own behavior, we monitor other people’s behavior. It’s not a secret anymore that we tend to conform to the decisions of the majority and even other individuals in all kinds of situations, ranging from highly relevant, uncertain judgments and blatantly simple sometimes even irrelevant decisions.

Many if not most of our day to day decisions are social by nature. Not only do we constantly make judgments about other people but we also make judgments in the company of other people. We’re social beings which means that we’re highly influenced by shared norms and mutual trust among members of a society.We like people who are similar to us. This fact seems to hold true whether the similarity is in the area of opinions, personality traits, background, or life-style. Social proof states that individuals acknowledge what is correct based on what other people think is correct behavior. We’re subconsciously constantly monitoring the preferences of others around us and compare them with our own attitudes. When we find ourselves in a unsure, unfamiliar or ambiguous situation, we are most likely to look and accept actions of the ones that we spend the most time together as correct. Usually, social proof is the most powerful when we’re looking outside of ourselves for evidence of how best to behave.

Social proof tends to be highly relevant in all of our relationships, which leads us to the main point that people are persuaded more by the actions of others than by any proof we can offer.

This fact transmits well with driving, since reports show that drivers who are alone in the car, have a higher crash risk then those with other passengers besides. Besides that, this protective effect increases with every extra passenger, indicating that the more passengers in the vehicle, the safer the driving of an individual. The results show that passengers have an overall protective effect on all drivers, regardless of their age, gender or what day of the week they were driving, although the impact was greater on those who were 25–64 years of age, than on younger drivers.

Table 1: Number of crashes, exposure in 10 million person kilometers and crash risk for drivers aged 18–24, 25–64 and >65 years with >0–3 passengers in the vehicle (1994–2000)
Table 2: Incidence density ratio (IDR) estimates and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for crash risk when driving alone compared to driving with passengers shown by driver age group (1994–2000)

Carrying passengers might be related to a sense of responsibility, meaning that driver has to take care of other people in the car as they are responsible for their lives and has to drive cautiously. The sense of responsibility grows especially if one of the passengers is a parent or a child. Not only the responsibility grows but also the fear of “what will the other person say of my driving?”, which is why the presence of passengers also impacts the likelihood of seatbelt use, lower likelihood of alcohol use, driver citation and driver’s fatal or severe injury.

This protective influence involves a social psychological phenomenon — social proof that impacts the drivers will to perform well in front of an “audience” (when there is someone else who is watching). So its right to say that good performance might entail safe driving. While also an increasing number of passengers has an accompaniment effect which means that the larger the audience, the better performance, since the effect increases with every extra passenger. So in general, the more passengers in the car means more people relying on us, hence safer the driving.

So how can we interpret the above information? The evidence shows the strong influence of social proof on ones driving, meaning implementing it into car insurance would without a doubt lower the car accidents and raise individuals carefulness on the streets, attention and reliability since it means he or she would have a responsibility towards their friends. Based on the reports and the positive impact, if every driver would have a friend or multiple friends backing them up and supporting their good driving behavior, individuals would be more careful hence they would be afraid letting their friends down and losing their trust.

A widely-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. So let our safe and careful driving be reason enough, to shamelessly ask our friends to back us up! One can only imagine the impact it would have on the roads and amount of car accidents per year.


Aldridge, B., Himmler, M., Aultman-Hall, L., Stamatiadis, N., 1999. Impact of Passengers on Driver Safety. Transportation Research Record 1693:25–30. Washington, DC: Transportation Research Board.

Doherty, S.T., Andrey, J.C., MacGregor, C., 1998. The situational risks of young drivers: the influence of passengers, time of day and day of week on accident rates. Accid. Anal. Prev. 30 (1), 45–52.

Lam, L.T., Norton, R., Woodward, M., Connor, J., Ameratunga, S., 2003. Passenger carriage and car injury: a comparison between younger and older drivers. Accid. Anal. Prev. 35, 861–867.

Rueda-Domingo, T., Lardelli-Claret, P., de Luna-del-Castillo, J., Jimenez- ´ Moleon, J.J., Garc ´ ´ıa-Mart´ın, M., Bueno-Cavanillas, A., 2004. The influence of passengers on the risk of the driver causing a car collision in Spain. Analysis of collisions from 1990 to 1999. Accid. Anal. Prev. 36, 481–489.

Vollrath, M., Meilinger, T., Kruger, H.-P., 2002. How the presence of passengers ¨ influences the risk of a collision with another vehicle. Accid. Anal. Prev. 34, 649–654