Notes for Robin Rinaldi, First For Women Magazine article on Driving Styles
September 2003

 

Common Aggressive Driving Habits
and What To Do About Them

by Dr. Diane Nahl and Dr. Leon James

 

Note: Dr. Diane Nahl is co-author of Road Rage and Aggressive Driving: Steering Clear of Highway Warfare (with Dr. Leon James) (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2000). Their Web site is at www.DrDriving.org as well as their national RoadRageous Video Course. Dr. Diane Nahl and her husband, Dr. Leon James, are the founders of the field of Driving Psychology.

 

Dr. Diane Nahl is Professor of Information and Computer Sciences and Chair of the Library and Information Science Program at the University of Hawaii.
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Definition of Aggressive Driving

Aggressive driving is driving under the influence of impaired emotions. There are three categories of impaired emotions:

  1. Impatience and Inattentiveness
  2. Power Struggle
  3. Recklessness and Road Rage

The majority of motorists drive in an emotionally impaired state at certain times. Some motorists drive in this state more often than others, and pose a serious risk to themselves and others. Driving violations can be identified by reference to these three categories of impaired emotions. Each category of impaired emotion leads to different types of traffic violations.

 

Category 1: Impatience and Inattentiveness

  • Driving through red
  • Speeding up to yellow
  • Rolling stops
  • Cutting corners or rolling over double line
  • Blocking intersection
  • Not yielding
  • Improper lane change or weaving
  • Driving 5 to 15 mph above limit
  • Following too close
  • Not signaling when required
  • Erratically slowing down or speeding up
  • Taking too long
 

Category 2: Power Struggle

  • Blocking passing lane, refusing to move over
  • Threatening or insulting by yelling, gesturing, honking repeatedly
  • Tailgating to punish or coerce
  • Cutting off in a duel
  • Braking suddenly to retaliate
 

Category 3: Recklessness and Road Rage

  • Driving drunk
  • Pointing a gun or shooting
  • Assaulting with the car or battering object
  • Driving at very high speeds
     

Instructional TEE Cards
 

"TEE CARDS" stands for Traffic Enforcement Education Cards. They are created by DrDriving for law enforcement officers who make a traffic stop for aggressive driving. The traffic stop can be a window of opportunity for delivering Aggressive Driving Prevention Information at a time when the motorist is especially focused to receive and listen to such information. The officer chooses from one of several categories of aggressive driving information cards and hands it to the motorist. The purpose is to build the motorist's awareness of what the law considers aggressive and which behaviors were observed by the officer. The officer chooses whether or not to issue a citation.

TEE CARDS express and promote DrDriving's approach called Driving Psychology. This is the idea that driving habits occur in three domains: emotions, thoughts, and sensory-motor actions. These three must act together to be effective. TEE CARDS can also be used in other settings such as

  • law enforcement education
  • public schools
  • driving schools
  • safety clubs
  • court mandated classes
  • family or individual efforts at Aggressive Driving Prevention.
  • driver self-improvement programs
  • commercial fleets
  • quality driving circles
  • public information programs
  • radio campaigns
  • posters
  • books and readers

The educational objectives for TEE CARDS are:

  • to serve as a reminder and warning at a time the motorist is focused on the officer
  • to give motorists a feedback assessment on their mistakes
  • to point out emotionally intelligent alternatives to aggressive driving
  • to strengthen a driver's sense of social responsibility to other drivers
  • to provide facts and statistics about the consequences of aggressive driving
  • to promote the idea that anger management takes serious practice
  • to provide information on self-improvement activities for drivers
  • to promote acceptance of a personal Lifelong Driver Self-improvement Plan
  • to promote acceptance of Quality Driving Circles or QDCs
  • to help de-glamorize aggressive driving
  • to reinforce appropriate driving attitudes to children passengers riding in the stopped car
  • to remind parents of their responsibility to model appropriate motorist behavior for the sake of their children's future driving attitudes

Each card stands as a true mini-lesson unit that takes into account three types of behavioral objectives:

  • affective objectives (regarding attitude, responsibility, emotions, alertness)
  • cognitive objectives (involving knowledge, judgment, emotional intelligence)
  • sensorimotor objectives (competence in vision and vehicle control).
 

The following sample of instructional tables or “TEE Cards” illustrate how driving psychology works for accomplishing a driver personality makeover. Each TEE Card addresses some very common driving problem or issue, showing how you can recognize its symptoms, where they come from in our upbringing years, and the self-modification techniques a driver can use to extinguish old negative driving habits and substitute for them new positive driving styles.

 

More TEE Cards can be viewed at this address on our DrDriving Web site:

www.drdriving.org/legislation/tee_cards.htm

Sample TEE Cards

 

No.55C2                      Anger Control:
When you are behind the wheel, try to get in touch with your higher feelings and use them to fight your lower feelings
Reaffirm to yourself the value of cooperation, community, altruism, support, tolerance, and rationality. The highway really enlarges our community membership. It is like a 'moving neighborhood' or even a 'virtual neighborhood' in which the membership may last only a few seconds, or a couple of minutes. The drivers around us are not enemies and competitors, they are neighbors and citizens representing great diversity--to which we need to accommodate willingly, as in a neighborhood.

Each little exchange with another driver constitutes a 'mini-encounter' and for a few seconds we form a 'mini-relationship' -- just like we do at the post office or bank line, though not the same way. Think with compassion not rejection, about

·         drivers who are sick--yet MUST drive themselves

·         drivers who are in emotional turmoil due to life circumstances

·         drivers who are new to the area and don't know exactly where they're going

·         drivers who have children in the car who are making a distracting racket

·         drivers who are old and less alert and reactive, thus needing more leeway

·         drivers who are inexperienced

·         drivers who are anxious and scared to make a left turn

·         drivers who don't know how to park in a small space.

Above all think of this: what kind of a person are you really, really, when behind the wheel you act like you don't care about these human needs that are really, really there on the highway, and when you act like someone who cares only about yourself, feeling no concern for the legitimate needs of other drivers all around.
 
For additional information and ordering instruction, visit the Web at
DrDriving.org or e-mail DrDriving@DrDriving.org
TEE CARDS Copyright 1999 Dr. Leon James and Dr. Diane Nahl
Do not use without permission
 

No.57C2                             Anger Control:
   Distinguish more accurately between insult or negligence, and    mistake or incapacity on the other
First, remind yourself that we start our careers as drivers with a culturally inspired norm of negative attitude and hostile competition on highways, as clearly portrayed by drivers behaving badly in car commercials, cartoons, and movies, as well as repeatedly enacted by our parents who drive us to school or soccer and ballet practice.

With this aggressive driving socialization background, we find it normal to

·         cuss

·         be impatient

·         take risks

·         rush

·         tailgate

·         lane hop

·         flip the bird

·         fight for a space

·         cut someone off

·         close ranks to prevent entry by another

·         speed

·         drive through stop signs and red lights

·         yell at passengers who are terrified by the way we drive

·         bad mouth pedestrians, police officers, transportation engineers, city councilmen, and safety experts.

To break through this negative driving culture, start with your own anger behind the wheel. Remind yourself that getting angry behind the wheel is an automatic, natural response to one's territoriality feelings. Observe how your anger quickly dissipates within 5 to 7 seconds, UNLESS you rekindle the fire of emotion by venting your anger through self-righteous indignation, e.g.

·         How dare they do this?

·         That's really stupid.

·         What gives them the right to...

·         I can't let them get away with that

·         Etc.

During the critical 5 to 7 initial seconds after the "offending" event, use breathing tricks to control the emotion

·         breathe slowly and deeply

·         count to 10

·         sing

·         make funny animal sounds

The breath controls the thought, and thought supports the emotion.

Then, when the surge of adrenaline is over, and your breathing returns to normal, give yourself a pep talk about

·         how it's better to stay calm

·         how you would prefer that

·         how you want to be more tolerant and supportive

·         how you don't want any hassles

·         Etc.

Make yourself distinguish

·         between mistake and insult,

·         between incapacity and negligence.

This increases your emotional intelligence as a driver and allows you to control your emotions in an adequate way, given that you are being constantly challenged on the road. Aggressive driving is a response to biased interpretations. Drivers get mad when they interpret another driver's act as an insult or negligence. The negative emotion cannot occur UNLESS we interpret the other's act as an intended insult or a negligent lack of concern for our safety.

By deciding in our mind that the driver's act is insult or negligence, we are automatically setting ourselves up for the fall--the emotional explosion of anger through which we lose it and then act dangerously and mindlessly. If you let it go that far, you need to back up, reverse yourself, by using the other techniques for self-control. But it's far easier and more effective if you prevent the anger from occurring in the first place. And you accomplish this by maintaining the distinction between insult vs. mistake, negligence vs. incapacity.

99% of the time you can correctly assume that the other driver's act was not an insult but a mistake, or else, that it was not some heartless negligence but some incapacity or impairment due to life circumstances. This positive interpretation may not be our first preference, since getting angry is so natural and satisfying! However, getting angry is shortsighted, and we are left with danger, insecurity, emptiness, and guilt; or else, with selfish domination and anti-democratic sentiments.

Positive interpretations of the behavior of other drivers is the hallmark of supportive, hassle free, smart driving, conscious driving. It is driving with excellence, safety, and cost effectiveness. It protects you from driving stress and from the insanity of other drivers. You are contributing to the general welfare of the highway community and you are affirming the dignity of human beings.
 
For additional information and ordering instruction, visit the Web at
DrDriving.org or e-mail DrDriving@DrDriving.org
TEE CARDS Copyright 1999 Dr. Leon James and Dr. Diane Nahl
Do not use without permission
 

No.44C2     Attribution Bias in Driving Exchanges
  "The driver is an idiot and wants you to miss your turn"
                 Agree-------Disagree
It's normal to try to figure things out when something happens:   what's going on, who is doing it, why they're doing it, and so on.  Typically, we assess incoming information and come to a logical conclusion.  When it comes to driving,  drivers often ignore important information and make the wrong conclusion which then gives them trouble.  The following statements describe how drivers feel in some common situations, and the percent of people surveyed who agree or disagree with that conclusion or mentality.

You're driving in the left lane in heavy traffic and you're trying to switch to the right lane so you can make a right turn at the next intersection. The driver in the car next to you sees your signal and closes the gap, preventing you from entering the lane. You miss your turn as a result. What do you think probably happened?

1) The driver is an idiot and wants you to miss your turn.

Yes, I agree with this  46%          No, I do not agree  54%

2) The driver was not being alert and closed the gap by habit, not even realizing it.

Yes, I agree with this   50%       No, I do not agree  50%

3) The driver is power hungry and enjoys denying what you want.

Yes, I agree with this   57%       No, I do not agree  43%

4) The driver needs better training to avoid such errors.

Yes, I agree with this   84%       No, I do not agree  16%
The vast majority of drivers agree that one is not supposed to close the gap and deny entry to another car, and a driver who does that "needs better training to avoid such errors" (item 4) and learn to become    "more alert" or cooperative (item 2).  But, about  half of the respondents agree with the idea that making such an error turns you into   "a power hungry idiot who enjoys offending others" (items 1 and 3).   How about you??

Consider this:   If half of the drivers on the road think that the other half are power hungry idiots who enjoy annoying you, then we have a serious problem on our highways!

Note that a majority of people disagree with the explanation that the driver who closes the gap does it "by habit, not even realizing it" (item 2).  And yet this is answer is more likely, as you yourself can know by observing your own driving more closely.  You will find that it's a common thing to do--unconsciously closing the gap when you notice a car wanting to switch to your lane ahead of you. It's done unconsciously because we acquire the tendency in childhood while we ride in our parents' car.  And if not, we still do it for years and it becomes unconscious.

Here are some common things people say when asked why drivers make them mad.  Do they sound familiar to you?

  • Drivers are macho idiots acting like idiots talking on cell phones trying to impress girlfriends.
  • For the most part, people are tired of being taken advantage of, or dealing with idiots, so they take it out while driving.
  • Some are just plain idiots, some don't know any better and some are selfish.
  • People are idiots driving slow in the passing lane or pulling out in front of me and then going slow.
  • Many crashes are caused by people who can't stand not to be first and drive like a pure idiot. Then you have two idiots, than three, then ...well you know the results. One idiots leads to another.
  • Again, it's not aggressiveness that bothers me. It's the fact that people are stupid idiots who don't' know how to drive.
  • For the most part, people are tired of being taken advantage of, or dealing with idiots, so they take it out while driving.
 
For additional information and ordering instruction, visit the Web at
DrDriving.org or e-mail DrDriving@DrDriving.org
TEE CARDS Copyright 1999 Dr. Leon James and Dr. Diane Nahl
Do not use without permission
 

No.42C2      Symptoms of Confrontational Thinking
                 Paranoia, Suspicion, Blame
Look at some of the symptoms of confrontational thinking behind the wheel.  Here are the results of a national survey on the Web  See how you would answer each item.

1)  One driver said: "If a driver behind me blows his horn and there is no one else around, it’s obvious he’s blowing his horn at me. Why else would he be honking?"

Yes, I agree with this 48% No, I do not agree 52%

2)  One driver said: "A lot of drivers can see that I’m in a hurry. So what do they do? They intentionally try to slow me down or block my way. That’s how they get their kicks."

Yes, I agree with this 22%No, I do not agree  8% 

3)  If two drivers start yelling at each other, then one of them gets out of the car and starts a fist fight with the other, the driver who got out of the car and started the fist fight is solely responsible. The driver who just yelled and didn’t want to get into a fight, is not responsible.

Yes, I agree with this 17%No, I do not agree 83% 
Let's look at item 3.  You can see from the results that the vast majority of drivers can figure out that if you get into a fight you share the blame no matter who started it, as long as it's clear that you had a choice to stay out of it.   People understand that if you yell at someone, a fight can start.  So it doesn't matter if later you claim you didn't mean to start a fight.  Note that 17% still don't understand this--that's 1 in every 6 drivers!  They need more training in how to think appropriately about driving situations.

Item 2 is a kind of paranoia to which drivers are vulnerable since driving situations are often unclear.  It's possible that a driver might intentionally slow you down and get a kick out of it, but the fact that we think this way every time, or most of the time, is a sure indicator that it is paranoia, not reality.  Ask yourself whether you get your kicks by intentionally slowing others down.  It seems that it's  always the other driver who tries to do you in.  That's not reality.

Item 1 splits the population down the middle.  The reality is that you don't really know why a driver does something.    Keep track of how many times you think a driver is going to do one thing, then does another.  It happens often.  So the fact is, we're not very good at explaining why a driver has honked (maybe the hand slipped, maybe they saw someone and are trying to catch their attention, maybe they're fooling around with each other inside the car, maybe the horn has a short, etc.).
 
For additional information and ordering instruction, visit the Web at
DrDriving.org or e-mail DrDriving@DrDriving.org
TEE CARDS Copyright 1999 Dr. Leon James and Dr. Diane Nahl
Do not use without permission
 

No.1C1     The Nation's Top Ten Driving Offenses
Nuisance
Ranking
  Observe which ones  you do
1 Cutting off or, cutting in and slowing down  
2 Lane changing in a reckless manner or, weaving through traffic  
3 Turning without signaling  
4 Cruising in the passing lane, not moving over  
5 Taking too long to turn or to get moving  
6 Yelling, insulting, or gesturing  
7 Rushing or being impatient all the time  
8 Tailgating and following too close  
9 Passing on the right shoulder when a car is turning left  
10 Running red lights or, speeding up to yellow  
 
For additional information and ordering instruction, visit the Web at
DrDriving.org or e-mail DrDriving@DrDriving.org
TEE CARDS Copyright 1999 Dr. Leon James and Dr. Diane Nahl
Do not use without permission
 

 

No.4C1         Test Your Road Rage Tendency
Instructions: Answer each question yourself and ask a passenger who knows you, to fill out the back, answering about you as a driver. on EVERY trip on
SOME
trips
NEVER
1.   I complain to myself about other drivers or the traffic.      
2.   I get annoyed or irritated by some drivers.      
3.   I feel frustration and anger in congested traffic.      
4.   I drive like I'm in a hurry, leaving slower drivers               behind.      
5.    I honk at drivers who upset me.      
6.    I tailgate slower drivers who refuse to move over.      
7.    I yell at drivers, and if they deserve it, I give them the                finger.      
8.    I break speed limits.      
9.    I go through red lights.      
10.  I drive impaired (alcohol, medication, fatigue).      
Evaluation:
2 or more EVERY answers=Your road rage tendency is at a dangerous level.
5 or more SOME answers=You have moderate road rage.
7 or more NEVER answers=You're in control of yourself. Congratulations!

Now compare your answers about yourself with the passenger's answers about you.
   
For additional information and ordering instruction, visit the Web at
DrDriving.org or e-mail DrDriving@DrDriving.org
TEE CARDS Copyright 1999 Dr. Leon James and Dr. Diane Nahl
Do not use without permission
 

More TEE Cards can be viewed at this address on our DrDriving Web site:

www.drdriving.org/legislation/tee_cards.htm

 

Selections From the Book

PREFACE

Grandmother:      Leon is not a good driver!

Diane:                  Yes he is...what do you mean?

Grandmother:      He scares me when he flies around the corners so fast. I have to brace myself to keep from falling

Diane:                  Oh, really? I didn’t realize that, maybe you should sit in front.

Grandmother:      It wouldn’t make a difference because he just drives too fast and it knocks me around. I don’t like it. It’s undignified.

Diane’s Story

Over the years I couldn’t tell Leon that his driving scared me because whenever I tried he became irritable or angry. So when I told Leon what my eighty-five year grandmother had said, he scoffed at her “backseat driving.” His position: He Is the Driver, the Driver Is In Charge—and passengers should only be cooperative and grateful. Passengers have nothing to say about the driving, for that is the Driver’s Domain. “Backseat driving” is simply not allowed under any circumstance.

Grandma’s need to feel safe and comfortable was perfectly normal and reasonable, especially since she had arthritis pain. Yet as far as Leon was concerned she was simply a backseat driver, so her complaints could be dismissed. I was confronted with the harshness of this reality when Leon refused to slow down around turns even after he knew she wanted him to. It became a power struggle between them. At each turn, as she lost her balance and tried to right herself, she would gasp dramatically and grab the seat back for support. After each trip, she complained about his driving to me because she was afraid to confront him. Then I would repeat it to him, provoking his anger or skepticism.

It was hard for me to accept that my nice guy husband apparently didn’t care about Grandma’s feelings—or about mine. She and Leon were good friends otherwise, so I couldn’t understand why this usually sweet man would permit himself to dismiss our feelings when he got behind the wheel. When I tried to get him to talk about his driving, he simply refused and put on a bad mood to keep me away from the topic.

This was a taboo subject with him for several years, until Grandma finally broke through. One day she got up her nerve and shyly said directly to him, “You drive too fast, and when you go around corners you knock me over. I have to hold on for dear life and I don’t like it. That’s not how it’s supposed to be.” Miraculously, Leon responded with friendship and vowed to change his ways, and with concerted effort over time, he did. Grandma was quite satisfied, especially because she could claim all the credit for inspiring Leon to reform his driving behavior. And I’m happier now that I feel free talk to Leon about the things that scare me in traffic without getting into trouble. Leon himself became happier when he discovered how rewarding it is to include the passengers’ feelings as part of the driver’s domain.

Leon’s Story

The idea of “driving psychology” was born in my mind when I began to realize how difficult and painful it was for me to accommodate my driving style to the needs of Diane’s grandmother. But I didn’t like it—I resented her dictating to me how I should drive. It seemed ridiculous for anyone to drive so slowly and to have to worry about passengers when turning corners. Couldn’t she just hold on to the door handle like everyone else? I thought she was just being demanding. and getting away with it because I didn’t feel like arguing with her every Sunday.

Diane had suffered my aggressive driving in silence for ten years. Once in a while she tried to express her anxiety, but she was shot down instantly by my unfriendly reactions—denying it happened, questioning her right to tell me what to do behind the wheel, arguing against the obvious, being sarcastic, frowning, raising my voice, threatening, ridiculing, denigrating, ignoring, fuming, giving her the silent treatment. I often watched her silent tears in her seat, knowing she was depressed and hopeless, feeling abandoned. At first, my heart hardened and I became distant, remote, and cold. Sometimes I kept silent for the entire trip to punish her for being so unreasonable as to remind me that I should courtesy-wave to drivers who let me into their lane. I would fume to myself,

Big deal. So I didn’t wave to the other driver. It’s up to me whether I want to wave or not. I don’t feel like it. It makes me feel stupid, on stage or something. I don’t even know the jerk who let me in. Besides, he’s not even looking at me. What’s this to her? Why does she have to care? She shouldn’t keep reminding me. She should just take it, ignore it, and shut up about it.

Once in a while I would make a feeble effort to patch things up to get her off my back:

Leon:          O.K., I’m sorry I made you cry. I’ll watch it next time. Alright, honey?

Diane:         That’s what you said last time this happened...yesterday.

Leon:          Oh, yeah. Well, I still think it’s better to drive in the left lane. In the middle lane you have cars on both sides. You’re totally locked in. There’s danger on both sides. But in the left lane you have the wall on one side and you only have cars on your right.

Diane:         I’m talking about how I feel riding in the fast lane, and the fact that you’re acting like you don’t care. You make me cry every time I bring up something that scares me.

But when her grandmother complained about me, Diane found a new freedom to speak against my “driving personality.” I became aware of all sorts of conflicting feelings when grandmother rode with us. We decided it was time to investigate this problem as social scientists. Our systematic efforts to understand and respect grandmother's needs led us to create the new field of driving psychology.

            This book brings together resources and discussion on road rage and aggressive driving from research studies, news media, government agencies, law enforcement, and citizen groups. A variety of Web-based resources are listed in the end of chapter Notes. For easy one click access to these resources, visit DrDriving's site for the book: http://www.drdriving.org/articles/book_toc.htm

 

From Chapter 2

Checklist:  Aggressive Thoughts and Feelings

This checklist helps to identify aggressive feelings and thoughts that are part of a road rage habit. The items are based on self-witnessing tapes of drivers in traffic and cover three common areas:

·           Fantasies of retaliation and revenge

·           High-pressure driving and competition

·           Impulsiveness and reckless driving

Since these are actual statements made by drivers, the style may not suit you perfectly but you may recognize the feeling or sentiment. Check each that applies to you.

Driving Area I.:  Fantasies of Retaliation and Revenge

1.    ___ When others cut in front of me so that I have to brake, I feel like crashing into them to teach them a lesson.

2.    ___ When I encounter road hugging pedestrians, I feel like pushing them out of my way.

3.    ___ When drivers become aggressive by tailgating me, I enjoy slowing down to pay them back.

4.    ___ When I'm under stress due to work, I get very edgy and take it out on other drivers.

5.    ___ I don't think passengers should tell me how to drive and I let them know if they try.

6.    ___ If motorists around me act cocky and drive recklessly, I get into a rebellious mood.

7.    ___ I passionately hate drivers who think that they are the only ones on the road and act carelessly.

8.    ___ When a driver cuts me off and then slows down, I feel like ramming that car.

9.    ___ I get nasty thoughts about drivers who force their way into my lane, especially without signaling.

10.  ___ I feel like ramming them to smarten them up about doing dangerous things (eating, putting on make-up, reading, talking on the phone, etc.) while they should be paying attention to the road.

11.  ___ When people run or walk on the shoulder of the highway I feel like swerving toward them to scare them off the road for good.

12.  ___ When slow bikers take up a whole lane so I can't pass and refuse to move when I honk, I feel like whipping by so close they lose their balance and fall.

Driving Area II.:  High-pressure Driving and Competition:

13.  ___ When a car gets in my way I don't like it and I try to get around it even if it means taking some risks.

14.  ___ In heavy traffic I feel a constant desire to weave across lanes, trying to get ahead.

15.  ___ I'm a "gap-closer" and I make sure no one enters my lane in front of me.

16.  ___ When I'm late, I have no patience and tailgate slower motorists in my way.

17.  ___ If it was up to me, I'd have everybody else get off the road until I pass--like the President.

18.  ___ I like the idea of saluting careless drivers "with respect" (flipping them off with my hand safely out of view under the dashboard).

19.        ___ I don't have respect for drivers who forget to turn their blinkers on or off.

DRIVING Area III.: Impulsive and Reckless Driving

20.        ___ Showing off for friends is something I do because I'm expected to take risks and not act like a coward.

21.        ___ I enjoy loud, fast music while I drive--lets me feel freeeeeeeeeeeee!

22.        ___ When I drive late at night, and the road is clear, I like to go fast no matter what the signs say.

23.        ___ When I'm in a rush and upset I cut in front of cars and rush through yellow lights.

24.        ___ If I had a few drinks but feel all right, I take a chance and drive home anyway.

25.        ___ When I'm tired I become less alert but I still need to drive.  I have no choice.

26.        ­­­___ Going through red lights should only be done when you're absolutely sure there are no cars that can show up in your way.

27.        ___ I love to hear the tires screech when I take turns fast.  It's a nice sound.  Makes me feel alive.

 

From Chapter 2

The Gender Effect

The cultural component of aggressive driving also shows when comparing men and women drivers. One of the items in our Web-based Road Rage Survey asked the 2,000 respondents how often they experience certain emotions behind the wheel, on a scale of 1 (never) to 10 (quite regularly).11 In the results for men and women we found differences in certain behaviors and similarities in others. The response confirms that when it comes to feeling negative emotions behind the wheel--rage, impatience, danger, violence, competition--men experience them more frequently than women. It's the opposite for feeling compassion for other drivers: women report positive emotions while driving more often than men do. These emotional differences between men and women carry over to specific aggressive driving behaviors:

 

Aggressive Driving Behavior

MEN
percent

WOMEN
percent

Making illegal turns

18

12

Not signaling lane changes

26

20

Following very close

15

13

Going through red lights

  9

  7

Swearing, name calling

59

57

Speeding 15 to 25 mph above limit

46

32

Yelling at another driver

34

31

Honking to protest

39

36

Revving engine to retaliate

12

  8

Making an insulting gesture

28

20

Tailgating dangerously

14

  9

Shining bright lights to retaliate

25

13

Braking suddenly to punish

35

29

Deliberately cutting off

19

10

Using car to block the way

21

13

Using car as weapon to attack

  4

  1

Chasing a car in hot pursuit

15

  4

Getting into a physical fight

  4

  1

 

For each aggressive driving behavior, more men report doing it than women. The differences in percentage points are statistically significant for all of these items. Though percentages look close, this means that in any sample more men than women will report aggressive behavior. These results confirm what earlier surveys have found:  Men drive more aggressively than women and manifest road rage symptoms more routinely. However, a growing number of women engage in each aggressive driving behavior:

Over the last 20 years, the number of fatal traffic accidents involving women drivers is up 18 percent, and women are involved in a higher rate of non-fatal accidents than men. Though men are still more likely to be involved in aggressive driving accidents than women, the number of women involved in these incidents is on the rise.12

The greater aggressiveness of men and the increasing aggressiveness of women drivers are cultural trends reflecting a rise in permissiveness towards expressing anger. Some of the increase in women's aggressive driving is attributed to the growth in the number of women in the workplace. The proportion of women in the driver population rose from 43 percent in 1963 to 50 percent in 1999, amounting to 88 million licensed women drivers in the U.S. More women are stuck in congested traffic, experiencing the stress and frustration men have endured. Additionally, women have more stops to make while they cart children to school, sports, and lessons, as well as driving to work, running errands, shopping and banking. A 1998 Johns Hopkins University study surveyed a group of female telecommunications workers, and found that the majority (56 percent) confessed to driving aggressively at times during their commute, yelling or gesturing at other drivers (41 percent), and taking their frustrations out behind the wheel (25 percent).13 The most important factor linked to road rage in this group of women was a high level of home responsibility coupled with a low level of emotional support for their hard work. Women are often forced to drive under time pressure during congestion. As a result, auto insurance rates for young women are now close to inexperienced young men, who are still being charged 18 percent above the base rate.

See also: Gender Effects in Driving Reports ||  More Articles

 

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