January 10, 2013
Road Rage: Weaving And Cutting In Irritate Drivers Most
Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
℠Be the change you wish to see in the world.´ — Mahatma K. Gandhi
Gandhi´s offering is simple enough. I hear people bandy the saying around, but is it really put into practice? Do people even know how they might recognize situations where their behavior can be a shining example of what, to many, is simply a platitude en vogue?
Well, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), apparently not. They published a new study in the online issue of Accident Analysis and Prevention where they tackled a topic that anyone who has ever sat behind the wheel of a car has an intimate knowledge of: road rage. And where better than behind the wheel of your car, a situation where you are interacting with the most individuals you will be in contact with in any given day, to practice Gandhi´s mantra.
Road rage and other vehicular aggression is, it is estimated, the main factor in nearly 50 percent of every motor vehicle collision, according to the study. The researchers at CAMH hold, as their primary priority, working to identify the underlying causes of and strategies for preventing driver aggression.
The study was based on Dr. Christine Wickens´, a CAMH researcher, reviews of thousands of entries that had been posted on the website RoadRagers.com. This website is a user-submitted clearinghouse of complaints about the unsafe and improper driving habits of other drivers.
A previous study, also conducted by Wickens, evaluated complaints that were submitted directly to the Ontario Provincial Police. From that study, she realized she wanted to find a way to get a broader amount of driver feedback. The internet provided that opportunity to her.
"These websites can tell us more about what people are doing out there in the real world," she explained.
The method Wickens and colleagues utilized included pouring over more than 5,000 entries that were posted on RoadRagers.com between the years of 1999 and 2007. The individual complaints, consisting primarily of reports on driving in both the US and Canada, were sorted into various categories, including speeding, erratic or improper braking, and blocking.
What really got the ire of drivers willing to go home and post about it, comprising a full 54 percent of all complaints to the site, dealt with offensive drivers that would cut in and weave through traffic. Speeding came in a very close second with 29 percent of users tattling on these law breakers. Hostile displays, which this writer can only interpret as creative sign language, rounded out the top three with 25 percent of posts addressing this wrong.
The teachings of Gandhi seem most suited for the secondary focus of the Wickens´ study. The team wanted to focus on how one, once subjected to the impolite and reckless behaviors of their fellow driver, might opt for the avenue of retaliation or to try to ℠teach other drivers a lesson.´ Those who choose to escalate the situation are unwittingly putting themselves, their offender, and those around them in a heightened level of danger. Aggressive and even poor-quality drivers are, for now at least, not going anywhere. This fact is leading the team toward their next focus of research.
As a slighted driver encounters an offending motorist, the team wants to examine how that encounter is perceived. Does the slighted driver see the offender as someone who is simply in a rush, someone who is negligent, or someone who is driving with aggression for aggression´s sake? Furthermore, how does one´s interpretations of the motivations of another affect our own behavior response?
It is this behavior response that Wickens addresses when she offers the advice that drivers try their best to maintain a cool head behind the wheel of a car. “Remind yourself to take a deep breath, stay calm, and do whatever it takes to bring your anger down.”
From the results of the study, Dr. Wickens offers a few basic suggestions, meant to be implemented in the early driver education programs that most license holders must attend prior to being granted the right to operate a motor vehicle. It is important, in her belief, to impart to these young drivers, in the hopes the lesson will translate into life-long safer driving practices, specific training that deals with the most common complaints unearthed in her study. Wickens hopes attention to these specific situations will teach people to not only recognize the impact of their actions and to perhaps avoid those behaviors altogether, but also to draw awareness to their own responses when confronted by an offending driver that they are very likely to encounter when on the road.
Gandhi, with his utterance of focusing only on your own behavior, was speaking very generally. The simplicity of the platitude often allows for its application to go unheeded. Wickens and her colleagues may have just exposed a very specific occasion and activity that one can decide another person´s behavior will have no affect on their own.