Aggressive Drivers Often Identify With Their Vehicles

  • Seeing your car as an extension of yourself may raise your risk for accidents, research shows.

Viewing your car as an extension of yourself can lead to aggressive driving, a new study warns.

In the United States, aggressive driving leads to one-third of all road crashes that cause personal injuries and two-thirds of all fatal crashes. The study is believed to be the first to take a close look at the link between personality, attitude, values and aggressive driving.

“It explains much of the phenomenon we knew existed,” lead author Ayalla Ruvio, an assistant professor of marketing at Temple University Fox School of Business in Philadelphia, said in a university news release. For example, “we know men tend to be more aggressive drivers and we know men tend to see their cars as an extension of themselves more than women.”

Ruvio and a colleague used 134 surveys of men and women in Israel, average age 23.5 years, to examine the influence of personality, attitudes and values on driving. The researchers also looked at the factors of risk attraction, impulsivity, driving as a hedonistic activity and perceptions about time pressures among another 298 people.

The study authors found that people who believe their car is a reflection of their self-identity are more likely to drive aggressively and disobey the rules of the road, and that people with compulsive tendencies are more likely to drive aggressively without regard for potential consequences.

Other factors associated with aggressive driving include: placing great importance on material possessions; being under time pressure; and being young and overconfident.

The findings “suggest that the perception of the car as an extension of the self leads to more aggressive behavior on the road rather than increased driving cautiousness,” and that “individuals may view cars and the road space they occupy as their territory and will seek to maintain control over it and defend it as necessary,” the authors concluded.

The study is published in the November issue of the journal Psychology & Marketing.


The American College of Emergency Physicians has more about aggressive driving
Aggressive Driving

Main Points

  • Emergency physicians see the tragic consequences of aggressive driving and are dedicated to preventing injuries, including those involving motor vehicles.
  • Aggressive driving is a dangerous problem on the nation’s roadways.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that aggressive driving contributes to a substantial number of all the fatal motor vehicle crashes in America.

Q. What is aggressive driving?

A. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as operation of a motor vehicle that endangers or is likely to endanger people or property. It is a progression of unlawful driving actions that includes:

  • Speeding — exceeding the posted limit or driving too fast for conditions;
  • Improper or excessive lane changing: failing to signal intent, failing to see that movement can be made safely; or
  • Improper passing — failing to signal intent, using an emergency lane to pass, or passing on the shoulder.

Aggressive driving is a traffic offense. The exact number of motor vehicle crashes caused by aggressive drivers is unknown, but NHTSA has previously estimated about 66 percent of all traffic fatalities annually are caused by aggressive driving behaviors, such as passing on the right, running red lights and tailgating.

A nationwide study by NHTSA of fatal crashes at traffic signals in 1999 and 2000 estimated that 20 percent of the vehicles involved failed to obey the signals. In 2004, more than 900 people were killed and an estimated 168,000 were injured in crashes that involved red light running. About half of the deaths in red light running crashes are pedestrians and occupants in other vehicles who are hit by the red light runners.

Q. What is road rage?

A. NHTSA defines road rage as an “assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of another motor vehicle or an assault precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway. Road rage is a criminal offense.”NHTSA defines road rage as an “assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of another motor vehicle or an assault precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway.  Road rage is a criminal offense.”

Q. What factors are linked to aggressive driving?

A. Some of the factors linked to aggressive driving include:

  • Crowded roads
  • Being in a hurry
  • Road work
  • Stress from other areas of life
  • Dangerous driving attitudes
  • Selfishness

Q. What should you do when confronted by an aggressive driver?

A. You should:

  • Make every attempt to get out of the way.
  • Put your pride in the back seat. Do not challenge him or her by speeding up or attempting to “hold-your-own” in your travel lane.
  • Wear your seat belt. It will hold you in your seat and behind the wheel in case you need to make an abrupt driving maneuver, and it will protect you in a crash.
  • Avoid eye contact.
  • Ignore gestures and refuse to return them.
  • Correct any unsafe driving habits that may provoke other drivers.
    Report aggressive drivers (once you are safe) to appropriate authorities; provide a vehicle description, license number, location, and if possible, direction of travel. If you have a cell phone, and can do it safely, call the police — many have special numbers (e.g., 9-1-1 or #77).  If an aggressive driver is involved in a crash farther down the road, stop a safe distance from the crash scene, wait for police to arrive, and report the driving behavior you witnessed.

Q. What preventive steps can be taken to avoid becoming the victim of an aggressive driver?

A. You should:

  • Always merge with plenty of room. Never cut people off.
  • If you are in the left lane and someone wants to pass, let him — even if you are going the speed limit.
  • Never use obscene gestures.
  • Drive defensively


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