Monday, 19 June 2017

The Aggressive Driver Syndrome, Age, Gender and Type of Car

Aggressive driving (tailgating, rude gestures, passing on the shoulder, pulling into a parking space someone else was waiting for, etc.) is a cultural norm, a socially acquired practice with age and gender differences.
The results of a telephone survey of 1.000 adult drivers conducted in 2000 show that young drivers are more aggressive than older drivers, that men are more aggressive than women when they drive sports cars and light trucks, and women are more aggressive than men when they drive SUVs and luxury cars. The author, in fact, distinguishes between "tough driving cars" (sports, light trucks, SUVs), "soft driving cars" (economy, family), and "special driving cars" (vans, luxury) stating that each of these "psychological categories" has its own aggressive driving syndrome. These are correlations, no causality is discussed.

The author also conducted an online survey in which 72% of female van drivers confessed to swearing and cussing on a regular basis vs. 46% of male drivers of economy cars.
Generally, men described themselves higher on aggressiveness than women (either because they really are or because it is culturally more accepted, or a mix of these reasons). The difference was significant, little in numbers (6 vs. 5.5), and high in effect. When considering the lifetime of one generation of drivers, the author comes to the conclusion that women's lesser aggressiveness would theoretically lead to 120.000 lives saved and 500.000 injuries less. The type of aggressiveness is also related to age and gender. Women, for instance, swear more than men do. So do young drivers compared to older ones. Men, in contrast, speed more than women (so do younger drivers compared to older ones).
"One of the discoveries I made by studying drivers for many years is that they like to underestimate their errors and overestimate their skills. In this sample, people rated themselves as a driver on a 10-point scale, from (1) poor to (10) excellent. Men rate themselves close to 8 while women rate themselves close to 7. This is is significant and substantial, but the interpretation is not entirely clear. It's possible that men are better drivers than women, but not necessarily. It could be that men underestimate their errors, while women are more realistic or honest. What's interesting when you look at the graph, is that this gender difference is replicated across the 10 states for which I had enough respondents to attain reliability."
Interestingly, those who consider themselves near perfect also confess to significantly more aggressiveness.

Although the sample is not representative and one has to be careful when analysing self-assessment, this study has some interesting findings.

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- James, L. (2000). Aggressive Driving Analyzed: National Web Based Survey of 1.200 Drivers. The Effect of Age, Gender, and Type of Car Driven Across the States, online
- Photograph via