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Research Christmas 2019: Chasing Cars

The need for speed: observational study of physician driving behaviors

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 18 December 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6354
  1. André Zimerman, research fellow1,
  2. Christopher Worsham, research fellow1 2 3,
  3. Jaemin Woo, research assistant1,
  4. Anupam B Jena, Ruth L Newhouse associate professor1 2 4
  1. 1Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA
  2. 2Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
  3. 3Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
  4. 4National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA, USA
  1. Correspondence to: A B Jena jena{at} (@anupambjena on Twitter)
  • Accepted 14 October 2019


Objective To determine whether fast driving, luxury car ownership, and leniency by police officers differ across medical specialties.

Design Observational study.

Setting Florida, USA.

Participants 5372 physicians and a sample of 19 639 non-physicians issued a ticket for speeding during 2004-17.

Main outcome measures Observed rates of extreme speeding (defined as driving >20 mph above the speed limit), luxury car ownership, and leniency of the speeding ticket by police officers, by physician specialty, after adjustment for age and sex.

Results The sample included 5372 physicians who received 14 560 speeding tickets. The proportion of drivers who were reported driving at speeds greater than 20 mph was similar between physicians and a sample of 19 639 non-physicians who received a ticket for speeding (26.4% v 26.8% of tickets, respectively). Among physicians who received a ticket, psychiatrists were most likely to be fined for extreme speeding (adjusted odds ratio of psychiatry compared with baseline specialty of anesthesia 1.51, 95% confidence interval 1.07 to 2.14). Among drivers who received a ticket, luxury car ownership was most common among cardiologists (adjusted proportion of ticketed cardiologists who owned a luxury car 40.9%, 95% confidence interval 35.9% to 45.9%) and least common among physicians in emergency medicine, family practice, pediatrics, general surgery, and psychiatry (eg, adjusted proportion of luxury car ownership among family practice physicians 20.6%, 95% confidence interval 18.2% to 23.0%). Speed discounting, a marker of leniency by police officers in which ticketed speed is recorded at just below the threshold at which a larger fine would otherwise be imposed, was common, but rates did not differ by specialty and did not differ between physicians and a sample of non-physicians.

Conclusions Rates of extreme speeding were highest among psychiatrists who received a ticket, whereas cardiologists were the most likely to be driving a luxury car when ticketed. Leniency by police officers was similar across specialties and between physicians and non-physicians.


  • Contributors: All authors contributed to the design and conduct of the study, data collection and management, analysis and interpretation of the data, and preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript. ABJ supervised the study and is the guarantor. The corresponding author attests that all listed authors meet authorship criteria and that no others meeting the criteria have been omitted.

  • Funding: ABJ is supported by grants from the Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH Early Independence Award, grant 1DP5OD017897).

  • Competing interests: All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at and declare: no financial relationships with any organizations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous 3 years; and no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work. ABJ reports having received consulting fees outside this work from Pfizer, Bristol Myers Squibb, Novartis, Amgen, Eli Lilly, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, Celgene, Tesaro, Sanofi Aventis, Biogen, Precision Health Economics, and Analysis Group. The research conducted was independent of any involvement from the sponsors of the study. Study sponsors were not involved in study design, data interpretation, writing, or the decision to submit the article for publication.

  • Ethical approval: The data were obtained from publicly available data sources and were exempt from human subjects’ review.

  • Data sharing: No additional data available.

  • ABJ affirms that the manuscript is an honest, accurate, and transparent account of the study being reported; that no important aspects of the study have been omitted; and that any discrepancies are disclosed.

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