In this fast moving society accidents are of common occurrence. In a fraction of a second the accident can alter the course of life in a very traumatic way. But it had been estimated that out of the 52,000 traffic accident deaths which occurred in America in a year, 8090% were due to driver’s errors. Numerous studies have probed the relative significance of physical, physiological, psychological and social factors prevalent among drivers responsible for all types of auto accidents.

It had been established in a study conducted in England that a small number of factory women accounted for a larger than expected number of accidents. They called them as accident prone individuals. Later on studies confirmed similar individuals in auto driver population also.

Extensive research was conducted on the accident prone individuals in order to know various factors prevalent among these people who make them accident prone. The results of various studies are described below:

PERSONALITY FACTORS: High accident individuals showed over all little religious orientation on the other hand they were highly aesthetic and believed in theoretical values. It was noted that high accident drivers displayed frequent impulsive and aggressive behavior when under stressful situations. They showed low tolerance for various tensions, separation anxiety (from spouse and parents). They displayed frequent fantasy preoccupation and reflectiveness. They were high on depression scales also.

SOCIAL MALADJUSTMENT: Besides typical personality characteristics of accident prone individuals social stress and social maladjustments were also noted to be the causative factors. It was observed that these individuals have truancy records in school, frequent job changes and frequent arrests.

CURRENT SOCIAL STRESS: The role of current social stress in precipitating auto accidents has also received enough attention. In a study of 15 drivers who were killed in auto accidents, almost 2% had moved into positions of increased responsibility (job promotion) or were contemplating doing so in near future. They were experiencing considerable emotional upset on being criticized by others in their vocational endeavors.

In immigrant population stress of acculturation phenomenon associated with general paranoia can increase the anxiety and depressive sympathology.

ACUTE PREACCIDENT DISTURBANCES: Any sudden anxiety or environmental disturbance occurring among drivers makes them more accident prone. It was noted that many of the drivers involved in fatal accidents had violent quarrels with their spouses, friends, parents, or with important individuals almost in 6 hour period immediately preceding the fatal accidents. Few of the drivers even had physical fights with other people just prior to accidents. Intoxication while driving with alcohol and various other street drugs is also an important factor to be considered.

From this discussion it may be concluded that a variety of emotional factors and life stresses can be implicated as important causes of many apparently fortuitous accidents. Usually the accident results from the momentary convergence of psychological, factors transient life stresses and physical illness at one point in time. Early detection of anxiety, stress and various other conflicts involved in accident process will increase the likelihood that psychiatric treatment be directed to these underlying factors possibly avoiding enduring disability and even death.


  1. Don’t drive while intoxicated.
  2. Don’t drive when under any acute psychological stress. Try to relax rather than drive.
  3. Don’t even take a ride from an individual who has a bad driving record.
  4. Physical illness or severe psychological conflicts should be discussed with a concerned professional.

Article extracted from this publication >>   February 22, 1985