First child or only child: How your birth order affects your driving

Where you fall in the pecking order of your family drives some personality traits that could determine how you behave behind the wheel -- and how much you pay for auto insurance.

“There are many birth order-specific traits that affect your attitude toward driving and the way you interact with other drivers,” says Dr. Soroya Bacchus, a psychiatrist in Los Angeles.

Here are the birth-order traits that can send you down the road toward high or low auto insurance premiums.

First born

how birth order affects driving Bacchus says the oldest child in a family typically pays attention to the road and surroundings, and isn't easily distracted by chatter and cellphones. Greg Cupper, president of the National Traffic Safety Institute, says the oldest child can thank his parents for that. The institute specializes in traffic safety education.

“Oldest kids are more likely to have received better guidance or training from parents about safe driving practices when learning to drive," Cupper says. "And those lessons likely stayed with you."

The oldest child is likely to stick to planned routes, Cupper says, and to stand up to pressure from peers to drink and drive.

Bottom line: While the first born sounds like a perfect motorist, he does have a sense of entitlement, Bacchus says. “They act as if they own the road,” she says.

Sound familiar? If so, take a breath when you're behind the wheel if you feel the need to cut off another driver or to snub a fellow motorist who wants to merge into your lane. Bacchus says taking that breath gives you time to think clearly -- and to avoid a costly traffic ticket or accident. Tickets and accidents easily can bump up your auto insurance premium.

Middle child

The middle child hates confrontation, so he's not likely to erupt into road rage or tangle with a driver who has it, according to Bacchus.

The middle child's eagerness to please also promotes roadway courtesy. “Middles will allow other to merge in or go first. They’re very conscientious behind the wheel,” Bacchus says.

Bottom line: Lauren Pearce, a driving instructor at the nonprofit Driving Concepts Foundation in Mission Viejo, Calif., says courteous drivers are some of the best on the road. But she says it's possible for a driver to be too kind.

“If you give up your right-of-way, you can inadvertently cause confusion among other drivers," Pearce says. "For instance, if you slow everyone down and go out of your way to let another driver in, you affect traffic behind you.”

That can cause an accident or can make you a victim of road rage.

'Baby'

“Babies of the family are very social,” Bacchus says. “They love to talk and be part of the action."

That makes the baby of the family prone to behind-the-wheel distractions like cellphones and passengers, she says. For instance, Cupper says, the baby's social nature means he's likely to respond to a friend’s repeated text messages.

Bottom line: If you're a "baby" who's a social butterfly, you may want to install a cellphone app -- like Drive Safe.ly or tXtBlocker -- that prevents texting while driving. Another way to cut down on distractions, according to Cupper: Limit the number of passengers in your car.

Only child

Bacchus says an only child is a highly conscientious motorist who considers other drivers, not just himself.

“They’re likely to take care of their car and everyone in it, and that translates into being a safe driver,” she says.

Cupper adds: “They are more independent and more skeptical, which results in a more careful and analytical way to drive."

But the only child also tends to be sensitive, making him a prime candidate for road rage. “If they are hurt or feel wronged, they may react emotionally when driving,” Bacchus says.

Bottom line: Pearce, the driving instructor, suggests leaving your emotions in your driveway before hitting the road.

“Drivers will always disagree with other driver’s actions, but that doesn’t mean you should take what other drivers do personally. Before reacting negatively to a fellow driver, count out loud to five," Pearce says. “Use those seconds to remind yourself that you won’t fix that person through your retaliation. Once you stop letting other drivers make you upset, you’ll realize how much more enjoyable driving is."

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