Risky and anxious-aggressive drivers: A key barrier to traffic safety legislation in Germany

Sonja Haustein, Andreas Humpe, Stefan Gössling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Traffic safety is high on the agenda of European governments. Yet, countries including Germany maintain policies that are commonly identified as increasing traffic risks, such as speed limits set too high or trends of greater car motorization and mass. To better understand some of the interrelationships of driver characteristics and car segments, this paper identifies different groups of drivers, based on a representative sample of German automobilists (n = 1211). Psychological instruments used to identify driver segments include the Driver Behavior Questionnaire (DBQ), the Multidimensional Driving Style Inventory (MDSI), and the HEXACO Personality Inventory. Based on k-means clustering, we identified four distinct groups: Risky drivers, Showy anxious-aggressive drivers, Anxious drivers and Calm drivers. Questions focused on socio-demographics, political orientation, and traffic laws are used to describe these psychographic segments. Findings suggest that Risky and Showy anxious-aggressive drivers represent a greater threat to traffic safety than other driver segments for different reasons: they drive more powerful and larger cars, deliberately violate traffic laws – creating unsafe traffic conditions for others –, and oppose legislation making traffic safer, while also voting for parties holding on to the status quo. As their political choices appear dominated by automobile interests, there are widespread implications for society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-96
Number of pages13
JournalTransportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Aug 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Applied Psychology

Free keywords

  • Driving behaviour
  • Risky drivers
  • Segmentation
  • SUV
  • Transport policy


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