Scientists say that there is one common driving habit which could be a sign that you (or someone you know) might be a psychopath like Patrick Bateman from American Psycho (pictured)

If you commute during rush hour traffic, then it may sometimes seem like the roads are completely full of psychopaths.

But scientists have now determined that there is one common driving habit which may be a sign somebody is actually a psychopath.

Researchers from the University of Regensburg found a significant correlation between psychopathic traits and using your mobile phone while behind the wheel. 

Drivers who tested highly for dark personality traits – Machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy – were much more likely to use their phones and to feel less guilty about it. 

The study also found that drivers with high levels of psychopathy were a third more likely than average to have committed a traffic offence in the last 12 months. 

Scientists say that there is one common driving habit which could be a sign that you (or someone you know) might be a psychopath like Patrick Bateman from American Psycho (pictured)

Scientists say that there is one common driving habit which could be a sign that you (or someone you know) might be a psychopath like Patrick Bateman from American Psycho (pictured)

In the study, the researchers collected data from 989 German drivers who underwent surveys to test for each of the three dark triad personality traits, ranked on a scale of one to five.

Their survey revealed that 61 per cent of the participants admitted to using their smartphone while driving at least occasionally. 

However, the researchers discovered that higher scores for any of the three dark triad traits were linked with increased phone use while driving. 

The researchers, in their paper published in PLOS One, write: ‘Thus, people with Dark Triad personalities tend to use their phones more often while driving.’

Drivers with higher scores for narcissism and psychopathy were also less likely to feel guilty about their problematic driving behaviour. 

Those who scored highly for Machiavellianism, a personality trait often linked to manipulative behaviour, were more likely to try and hide their phone usage.  

Researchers found that psycopathic traits as well as narcissism and Machiavellianism were linked with an increased chance of using your mobile phone while driving (file photo)

Researchers found that psycopathic traits as well as narcissism and Machiavellianism were linked with an increased chance of using your mobile phone while driving (file photo)

The ‘Dark Triad’ personality traits

Psychopathy 

  • Lower levels of empathy or remorse for actions.
  • Often prone to taking significant risks or impulsive actions. 

Machiavellianism

  • Manipulative and self-interested.
  • Ruthless and exploitative behaviour with a lack of morality.  

Narcissism (sub-clinical) 

  • Higher levels of self-interest or grandiosity.
  • Associated with selfish or self-seeking behaviours.  

The researchers also found that psychopathic traits were a good predictor of whether someone would have committed a traffic offence. 

For someone with the minimum psychopathy score of one, the researchers predict there is a 9.89 per cent probability of them having committed a driving offence in the last 12 months. 

For someone with an average level of psychopathy, the probability of having committed a driving offence is at 24 per cent. 

This rises to a 56 per cent chance for a psychopathy score of 4.33, which was the highest score measured by the researchers. 

Participants were also tested for problematic smartphone use (PSU), which is an excessive use of phones to the point at which other areas of life are negatively impacted.

The researchers note that this phenomenon may be surprisingly common, with 50 per cent of respondents to one survey saying they could not live without a smartphone. 

The researchers found that PSU, regardless of other personality traits, was the strongest predictor of phone use while driving.

Those who answered positively to questions like ‘When I get bored while driving, I spend time on my smartphone’ were also much more likely to exhibit PSU.

According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,142 people in the US were killed by car crashes in 2019.

In that year, 422 people died in crashes in which at least one of the drivers was distracted by a phone. 

The researchers therefore suggest that targeting people’s relationships with their phones could help make the roads safer. 

By reducing the rates of PSU in everyday life, the researchers argue that people will spend less time on their phones while on the road and become less distracted.

The researchers added: ‘Overall, PSU is an excellent predictor regardless of the Dark Triad personality traits. 

‘Since this factor can be changed more easily than personality, PSU should be targeted in public safety interventions’.

WOULD YOU KNOW HOW TO SPOT A PSYCHOPATH?

Psychopaths display different traits depending on their disorder.

Common signs include superficial charm, a grandiose notion of self-worth, the need for stimulation and impulsiveness, pathological lying, the ability to manipulate others and a lack of remorse and empathy.

But despite the popular association, not all psychopaths become killers.

Experts claim people usually find psychopaths intriguing, but can’t put their finger on why. 

This is down to incongruous behaviour because psychopaths tend to do a lot of acting to deceive, or mimic normal reactions, sometimes changing their views and reactions quickly.

For example, Self-professed psychopath Jacob Wells said that upon meeting someone, he tries to become ‘the most interesting person they know’ and presumably adopts suitable interests and responses to do this.

His response also gives away another common trait – a grandiose notion of self-worth – in that he can be the most interesting person in the room.

Psychopaths occasionally tend to exhibit unconvincing emotional responses, with slip-ups including tone of voice or body language.

This may be because they are unable to understand emotions such as fear and love, but can mimic them.

Psychopaths display different traits depending on their disorder, but common signs include superficial charm and the ability to manipulate others. Despite the popular association, not all psychopaths become killers (stock image)

Psychopaths display different traits depending on their disorder, but common signs include superficial charm and the ability to manipulate others. Despite the popular association, not all psychopaths become killers (stock image)

Generally psychopaths’ ’emotions’ are shallow and short-lived and there is a manipulative ulterior motive to showing them.

For example, Mr Wells said he offers to do favours and tells false secrets to people to gain their complete trust.

He also displays insincere charm – another trait associated with psychopaths.

He says: ‘I keep secrets, and tell them fake secrets to further gain their trust, and once they trust me enough, I ask for favours, reminding them of the favours I did them. I can get literally anything from them, which is incredibly useful.’

Psychopaths typically display an incredible ability to manipulate others and sometimes take pleasure in doing so. 

Psychopaths often have an air of superiority about them, perhaps shown by Mr Wells’ belief he can spot other psychopaths

Even expert Dr Hare, who came up with the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) used as a diagnostic tool to determine where someone lies on the psychopathy spectrum, warns that anyone can be duped during a short interaction with a psychopath.

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