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Driver Personality Survey Results


Dr. Leon James, Prof. of Psychology and
Dr. Diane Nahl, Prof. of Information Science
University of Hawaii


This survey is designed to assess many important affective and cognitive behaviors of drivers. The sub-parts include the following driver personality traits:

  1. AB: Attribution bias in driving exchanges
  2. ES: Emotional self-control behind the wheel
  3. IM: Impulsivity as a driver
  4. LC: Locus of control of driving events
  5. PU: Pugnacity as a driver
  6. SA: Scenario analysis in driver choices
  7. SE: Self-efficacy feelings as a driver
  8. SR: Social responsibility as a driver
  9. TE: Total Score for Driving with Emotional Intelligence

Driving with emotional intelligence means having a positive profile on these driver personality components. Drivers are assessed by Distance from a Desirable Driver Profile. This distance may be computed as a Geometric Mean (=sum of squares of differences for each item divided by the number of items, then square rooted). Drivers can  rank order themselves on the basis of this Distance Score—starting with small scores as the best (closest to Desirable Driver Profile) and large scores as the worst (further away from Desirable Driver Profile).

The Desirable Driver Profile, or DDP, is theoretically specifiable but this may not be enough. Further, different ethnic or cultural contexts may require different theoretical predictions. It is necessary therefore to empirically discover what the Desirable Driver Profile is for a specific population and context.

Prior attempts to find a relation between personality traits and accident proneness led to the conclusion that one cannot find correlations higher than .3, which gives a predictive power of less than 10% better than chance (50%).   This result has discouraged further research in this area.  We take the position that the research community needs to go further with it, not abandon it.

  1. The first important change is to introduce valid driving items rather than general clinical personality traits.  This we have done in the present survey battery.
  2. Second, we take the position that  the driving items must cover the three domains of the driver:  affective, cognitive, sensorimotor.   Our items are distributed across these three.
  3. Third, we define valid items as those that authentically engage the habitual thinking patterns of drivers and gives them a genuine problem or scenario to think about and solve.
  4. Fourth, we define the effectiveness or predictive power of an item as its ability to evoke known social psychological dilemmas or issues.  We have done this by writing items that create a focus around 8 known important social psychological issues.  These are:

In the ensuing weeks and months, we shall publish here the results of how the items are being filled and how different profiles are related to gender, age, experience, work, and type of car.  Check back in a couple of weeks.


AB: Attribution bias in driving exchanges

It's normal to try to figure things out when something happens:  what's going on, who is doing it, why, and so on.  Typically we assess incoming information and come to a logical conclusion.  When it comes to driving, our research has revealed that drivers often ignore telling information and come to an illogical conclusion, or an unfounded one.   The following items describe some typical driving situations that all drivers could be exposed to.  They ought to be able to agree or disagree with conclusions based on those facts.  That's what the percentages represent:  how many people or what proportion of respondents picked to agree or disagree.  The blue answer is always better than the red answer.  By looking at these percentages we can find out how drivers reason about normal situations they may encounter.  Consider these   items and the results.

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%  AB1          No, I do not agree  54%   AB1

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

Yes, I agree with this   50%  AB2        No, I do not agree  50%  AB2

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

Yes, I agree with this   57%  AB3        No, I do not agree  43%   AB3

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

Yes, I agree with this   84%  AB4        No, I do not agree  16%  AB4

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).  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).  What conclusions can we draw from this pattern?

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 actually 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.  When we asked people to tell us in their own words what they thought of other drivers and the way they drive, we received confirmation of this cynicism.   Here are some samples quotations:  Listen America, your drivers speak, think, and feel this about one another:

  1. Drivers are macho idiots acting like idiots talking on cell phones trying to impress girlfriends.
  2. For the most part, people are tired of being taken advantage of, or dealing with idiots, so they take it out while driving.
  3. Some are just plain idiots, some don't know any better and some are selfish.
  4. People are idiots driving slow in the passing lane or pulling out in front of me and then going slow.
  5. 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.
  6. Again, it's not aggressiveness that bothers me. It's the fact that people are stupid idiots who don't' know how to drive.
  7. For the most part, people are tired of being taken advantage of, or dealing with idiots, so they take it out while driving.
  8. They are plain old selfish self-centered jerks with no common sense and with an  inflated sense of importance.
  9. They just want to get out of there as quickly as possible and just being jerks.
  10. They're in a hurry and they know they can get away with being jerks because they can always zoom away from you, a generally more angry and irritable attitude among people today.
  11. They are too busy thinking of themselves. They are most likely complete jerks in real life, too.
  12. I think they just want to be faster than you and they are stupid jerks who think that they are better than you because of what they drive or who they are.
  13. People driving too slow drive me crazy. Old people are the main people who drive like idiots.
  14. People are idiots and don't think before they do things..... they seem to think that they are the only people on the road.
  15. As a semi driver, this is the safest way to ensure blocking all available roadway in order for the idiots behind me to not get themselves crushed under my trailer. There's always at least one fool a week who tries to get between myself and the curb.
  16. A man bumped and scraped my car who didn't feel bad enough about it. I was cool about it and thought it was minor but when that jerk took off without going to the side and checking it out, I just had to yell out my feelings.
  17. Sometimes I try to let people pull out in front of me on a busy street. there are no stop lights and it takes a while for traffic to open and allow them to get out. Unfortunately, there are idiots who don't understand why I am stopping and the go around to pass me. Usually , the idiot has to slam on his brakes to avoid hitting the car pulling out, and he is stuck there, half in my lane, half in the other lane, blocking traffic.
  18. You should never let other driver's bad habits change your own driving habits. That's why I wouldn't speed up for some idiot on my rear bumper, especially if I was already speeding, which is likely.
  19. I'd love to drive the 75 or 85 mph that I did when I learned how to drive in the early seventies. The problem is that there are too many fools and idiots on the road today. I may be one of them, who knows?
  20. I am already traveling faster than the law wants me to and now this jerk wants me to go faster because he wants to go faster
  21. Poor guy, he just lost his girlfriend and  minding his own business, riding his bike and then some jerk harasses him  and then the police ignores his call. I would feel depress and upset too  if that happened to me.
  22. It seemed he had a hate for speed bumps, and boy did the squad car look like a ship tossed about in a storm. He did not appear to be going to an emergency, he seemed to just be in a hurry and hated the bumps like everyone else, except the jerks who wanted them.
  23. Boy, some clown was driving to work, in the right lane, taking his dear sweet time in rush-hour, and guess what this *non-aggressive* driver was doing? Yes, as the title implies, this jerk had full-sized headphones on and was probably listening to Strauss and the "Blue Danube".
  24. Today I was on the I-60 freeway (in LA) and came upon a mid 70's ford van (all crapped out) doing 55 (this in a section of freeway clearly marked 60MPH) in the left lane (of a 4 lane PLUS carpool lane) freeway. As cars would come up behind this jerk, they would flash their lights, tailgate and finally decide to pass on the right (not always possible, since traffic in the other lanes was flowing faster than jerkoff).
  25. Jerkoff responded by flashing his brights.
  26. Jerkoff pulls back into the fast lane (cutting off a car overtaking him doing 75).
  27. Even luckier, the idiot with the gun finally decided to pull over and confront the couple, who were following him until police arrived.
  28. The SUV - Sport Utility Vehicle - is our land yacht, our tank, our 5,000 pounds of armor protecting us from road rage and pileups and that idiot hugging our bumper.
  29. Conditions can never improve if we just keep jamming more and more stupid drivers on the road, and then tout about the nastiness of road rage, and how driving slower will solve everything.
  30. It  gets hairy when some idiot decides he wants to get in that left lane and do 50.
  31. Since safety zealots like to define "speeding" in terms of the posted limit, their idiot followers feel like they're safe if they're driving below the posted limit.
  32. Speed doesn't kill, the idiot that doesn't know what he's doing while going that fast does.
  33. A heavily laden van, poorly maintained, and steered by a distracted idiot is considered legal at 1 mph under the limit. On the other hand, a well-maintained performance car driven by an alert, capable driver is subject to legal penalty at 1 mph over the posted speed.
  34. I have found since I started driving from the latter perspective that my sheet metal doesn't end up looking like a twisted mess anymore because some idiot that I thought saw me, didn't.
  35. I just thank my lucky stars  drive a 1976 Chevy Nova with a V8 and dual exhaust so I have the power  need just in case some idiot pulls up on my rear bumper on the freeway and refuses to get off because s/he doesn't think that my 80 in the 70 zone is fast enough. for them I slow down a bit, shift and leave 'em eating dust.
  36. Truck drivers get a bad rap. Idiots in cars make the pros job hard.
  37. Well since speeding up didn't help I slowed to the speed limit. the jerk just started giving me his brights and swerved into the oncoming lane. My question is how do you respond to maniacs on the road when there is nowhere to go?
  38. Sometimes we innocently make that one move that doesn't sit well with some jerk on the highway, a driver who takes offense at your having passed them and pulled in front of them (even if you do so safely and, say, 50 yds ahead of them).
  39. I'm fine. It's the Idiot in front of me.

These are just a sample from our collection of how drivers discuss each other.  According to the driver personality survey, half of the drivers see nothing wrong with this type of cynicism, while the other half do. 

Here are some more results:

Updated December 2000  The count=1008 respondents.   Male/Female=50% each


Dr. Leon James, Prof. of Psychology and
Dr. Diane Nahl, Assoc. Prof. of Information Science
University of Hawaii

1.1. Getting out of a tailgater's way only encourages that behavior.

Yes  42%        No  58%

1.2. Bowing down to tailgaters will turn driving into a free for all 

Yes  34%        No  66%

1.3. You need to retaliate against aggressive drivers in order to maintain law and order on highways 

Yes  23%        No  77%

1.4. It's justified to resist bad drivers by scaring them a little so they don't think others are unaware or powerless 

Yes  28%        No  72%

1.5. It's important to prevent aggressive drivers from pushing you and other drivers around, by blocking their way, or giving them a scare 

Yes  29%        No  71%

1.6. If you see a driver making what you think is a stupid, dangerous mistake, it's your right and duty to teach that driver a lesson 

Yes  14%        No  86%

1.7. One driver said: "I’m neither violent nor aggressive, but when some selfish driver endangers my life and cares little about it, I can get pretty mad at that person." 

Yes  86%        No  14%

1.8. One driver said: "Everybody has violent feelings at times, due to their frustration and stress inside. It’s inevitable that these emotions must come out while you drive. It’s just human nature." 

Yes  40%        No  60%

1.9. One driver said: "When another driver acts selfishly and puts my life in danger, I feel better when I get angry than when I just sit there taking it passively." 

Yes  45%        No  55%

1.10. Drivers who weave between lanes and know how to get somewhere fast, may be called aggressive drivers, but they are not the cause of accidents. Accidents are caused by unskilled drivers who make mistakes and don't know how to dodge oncoming cars. 

Yes  23%        No  77%

1.11. One driver said: "The situation on the road is so competitive and aggressive, that sometimes I think of some bad things I can do to some of the idiot drivers that endanger everybody's lives by being too aggressive. Of course I don't do anything about it. It's just a harmless little fantasy." 

Yes  46%        No  54%

1.12. One driver said: "Some drivers are so foolish and selfish that they need to be taught a lesson by vigilante drivers who look out for the public good by punishing these selfish drivers. After all, we must not let them get away with that kind of stupid driving. We should all be thankful to these vigilante drivers." 

Yes  18%        No  82%

1.13. There are too many road regulations and speed limits. Driving should be left to drivers to battle it out with each other, and let the best win, and the worst lose. 

Yes  12%        No  88%

1.14. What are some things that really get you angry when other drivers do them, so angry that you think you should let them know how you feel.

Tailgating me.

Yes  52%        No  48%

1.15. What are some things that really get you angry when other drivers do them, so angry that you think you should let them know how you feel.

Cutting in front me, then slowing down.

Yes  65%        No  35%

1.16. What are some things that really get you angry when other drivers do them, so angry that you think you should let them know how you feel.

Dangerously weaving through traffic. 

Yes  36%        No  64%

1.17. What are some things that really get you angry when other drivers do them, so angry that you think you should let them know how you feel.

Deliberately not making space for me when they see I need it. 

Yes  56%        No  44%

1.18. What are some things that really get you angry when other drivers do them, so angry that you think you should let them know how you feel. Taking away my parking space even though I saw it first. 

Yes  39%        No  61%

1.19. What are some things that really get you angry when other drivers do them, so angry that you think you should let them know how you feel.

Going too slow for no reason and blocking my way so I can’t pass. YesNo

Yes  60%        No  40%

1.20. Aggressive driving cannot be cured. It’s part of human nature in a competitive and dangerous situation. We need teach drivers how to be aggressive and safe at the same time." 

Yes  37%        No  63%

1.21. Driver A tailgates driver B in the passing lane. Driver B notices it but takes a long time to switch over to the right lane. Driver A gets angry and in order to retaliate, he cuts into the right lane just ahead of driver B. Driver B has to slam on the brakes. Driver A was justified in tailgating driver B because driver B was blocking the passing lane and taking too long to switch over to the right lane. 

Yes  21%        No  79%

1.22. Driver A tailgates driver B in the passing lane. Driver B notices it but takes a long time to switch over to the right lane. Driver A gets angry and in order to retaliate, he cuts into the right lane just ahead of driver B. Driver B has to slam on the brakes.

Driver A was justified in expressing his anger when driver B was blocking his way in the passing lane. 

Yes  28%        No  82%

1.23. Driver A tailgates driver B in the passing lane. Driver B notices it but takes a long time to switch over to the right lane. Driver A gets angry and in order to retaliate, he cuts into the right lane just ahead of driver B. Driver B has to slam on the brakes.

Driver A was justified in cutting off driver B to let him know that he should not block the passing lane. 

Yes  17%        No  83%

1.24. One driver said: "When another driver directly insults me in front of others, by yelling at me and making an obscene gesture, I feel deeply violated."  

Yes  51%        No  49%

1.25. One driver said: "I'm always trying to be courteous except when the other drivers are not courteous to me." 

Yes  62%        No  38%

1.26. I would use tailgating only as a last resort, when a stubborn or selfish driver simply refuses to let me pass when I’m in a hurry and can’t afford to lose more time. 

Yes  41%        No  59%

The following selection of letters gives you a fuller context of how drivers talk about one another.  Are you one of them?  Perhaps we all need to become more aware of our oppositional mental state behind the wheel.  One nice surprise is that even though it feels like a hardship to give up one's automotive cynicism, this sense of hardship is only an appearance.  It feels like you're giving up something by not retaliating.  There is a certain social pressure to express your righteous indignation to make sure they're not taking advantage of you, or even worse, they don't make you look like  a wimp.  But these are symbolic events.  You don't actually become a wimp and a loser when you choose not to retaliate.  Neither is it the case that you're putting yourself in greater danger by allowing this other driver to get away with it.  The fact is that you have no control over the mental states of other drivers.  Using an oppositional or confrontational approach actually reduces your influence over the situation since you don't know how the other driver is going to respond.  You're actually giving up control when you retaliate.  In the letters that follow, the writers call the other drivers jerks, idiots, numbskulls, morons, boneheads, and so on.  Why do they call them names?   Because it's the first step to retaliation. 

Here is a detailed explanation and disagreement sent in by a correspondent:

Date: Mon, 1 May 2000

Subject: Your misunderstanding of the issues and premises never cease to
amaze me...

These aggressive laws are about jobs and dollars.. nothing more. I'll comment on each question:

1.   Each time you go through a red light (engaging the intersection when already red)

A significant number (majority) of traffic light are not timed in

accordance with MUTCD guidelines or on the basis of engineering that have

determined the prevailing speed of traffic being regulated.

a) Many times resulting in short yellows and irregular timing sequences.

(equivalent of speed traps)

b) Many red light camera are placed at intersections with low accident

rates, but high volumes and/or other traffic sites with design flaws

where the cameras record significant violations yet have no effect on

accident rates. The cities profit from there in action.

c) AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, the latest AAA study out of Minnesota and a

like one out of England shows that doing an engineering review of an

intersection and bringing the devices up to standards and specifications

(MUTCD) (timing) resulted in accident reductions of up to 50%.

d) Excerpts of another report

"So far I have measured 13 intersections. I take at least 20

readings of amber time at each signal. I measure the

clearance distance also. Where appropriate I measure the

uphill or downhill grade as the case requires. All the data

is then statistically analyzed and calculations specific to

the intersection are made.

Out of the 13 intersections I have measured and analyzed so

far, five (or 38.5%) failed to provide the minimum amber

needed to make a so called safe stop. All 13 (or 100%) failed

to provide the minimum amber time required for a vehicle to

make safe passage and clearance of the intersection, which

happens to be a CODE OF VIRGINIA requirement. "

2. Each time you go through an amber light (visibly speeding up to make it, not just getting caught in it)

See above

3. Each time you switch a lane without signaling first

These citations are always grouped with speeding as a primary component

of aggressive drive laws. Before you jump on this band wagon go look at

the actual data. Here in Nevada, even with urban cities like Las Vegas

and Reno, out of 70,000 accidents last year there were only 5 were caused

by changing lanes without signaling in total, with another 8 as

contributing cause. ZERO on the interstate/open highway with free flowing

traffic, yet it was the most popular secondary citation written here by

the NHP on these classifications of highways.

4.   Each time you make a turn without signaling

See above - Yes you should signal when making a turn, but it is not an

aggressive driving type of offenses. Normal citation should suffice.

5-10.  Each time you go over the speed limit by more than 1 mile

See the study I conducted in Montana. Speed enforcement, as practiced,

has not shown to have any effect on vehicle speeds or accident rates.

Most enforcement occurs when traffic is light, lowest accident frequency

sections of highway, during the times of day when accidents are least

likely to occur, targeting the safest vehicles in the bell curve on roads

that have the limits set well bellow the finding of the engineering


The charts speak for themselves without my commentary. The changes or

fluctuations in the fatality rate had nothing to do speed limit changes.

However, it is interesting to note they recorded there lowest rates ever

when there were no limits whatsoever.   <---- this is a sad truth   <---- this is a parody


This type of behavior is unacceptable at all times. Interesting to note

that the Governor of MN vetoed a "slower traffic keep" right bill

primarily at the request of the state patrol - what's up with that. Here

in Nevada I wrote a bill that was signed into law that says you even if

you are exceeding limit , yet impeding traffic, you can be cited.

15. Each time you drive without a valid driver license.

The number one cause of lose of license is not having the money to pay

for traffic fine. Primary Victims.. those that don't have money and work

from pay check to pay check.

16.   Each time you drive with an alcohol level above the legal limit

AGGRESSIVE DRIVING??? There are sufficient laws on the books for this


17. Each time you drive while drowsy enough to have droopy eyes

In bridge (transit) states like Nevada the Fed highway monies are not

enough to repair and replace the highways, and there is no funding

available to operate rest stops. Well in excess of 70% the open highway

accidents are single vehicle events. Yet rest areas are virtually

non-existent. NONE on the high accident 15 corridor between Vegas and the

California line... and Casinos do not qualify as rest areas.

18-19. Each time you drive and use a hand held cellular phone when not in an emergency situation

Despite all the hype, accidents caused by technology are low and the

benefits from cell phones has been enormous. when accidents do occur,

before the vehicles come to a stopp the 911 centers receive multiple

calls and live reports on the severity and nature of the event.

Furthermore, the idiotic recommendation to pull over to shoulder and stop

to talk is the most dangerous act a motorists can perform. The act of

leaving and entering the stream and dramatic speed differentials creates

an extreme hazard and is never a good idea unless you leave the roadway

at an off ramp.

Technology is here and there is no turning it back... This week the

President lifted the military scrambling of the GPS signals to enhance

transportation electronic device applications and navigation.

As with driving, flying or any other endeavor we will as species adapt.

And our survival and lower accident rates says we aren't doing to bad a


20. Each time you drive in a car whose windows are dark tinted enough so other drivers cannot see you

What does this have to do with aggressive driving???

21. Each time you drive and other drivers can hear your radio or music blasting loud enough that it can be clearly heard in an adjacent car whose windows are up

What does this have to do with aggressive driving???

22. Each time you unmistakably rev your engine in order to intimidate someone or to show them your displeasure

Rare occurrence.. and if vehicles are stopped what does this have to do

with aggressive driving???

23. Each time you get to a traffic light and stop too close behind another car (you cannot see the other car's tires)

What does this have to do with aggressive driving???

24. Each time you approach too fast another car that's stopped, fast enough that the other driver feels threatened

Way too Subjective

25. Each time you follow too close and keep it up for more than one minute (even when you're travelling in a pack)

6,000 cars an hour traveling at speeds up to and excess of 80 mph are

daily routine on most urban interstates... at less than 1 second

intervals.. What does this have to do with aggressive driving??? I have

the actual Caltrans reports if you would like to see them.

26. Each time you're cruising in the passing lane, refusing to move over as soon as you can

Already against the law in most states... virtually never enforced.

27. Each time you're waiting in traffic and blocking an exit or intersection, when you could have stopped sooner

Already against the law in most states... virtually never enforced.

28. Each time you can be seen making an obscene gesture at another road user

Freedom of speech... seems to come to mind even if offensive.

29. Each time you can be heard hurling an insult to another road user

Freedom of speech... seems to come to mind even if offensive.

30. Each time you don't make a full stop at a stop sign

Most stop signs have been placed contrary to the MUTCD (no supporting

justification) many could be replaced with yield signs or removed all

together. When rational motorists determine that there is no safety

hazard... they will proceed with caution without coming to a complete

stop. This is why the yield signs in are recommended instead of stop

signs. Save the stop signs for true hazards.

There are many many areas where accident rates could be reduced, the

solutions are not to found in aggressive driving laws, particularly as

they are being enforced. Worse yet, NHTSA has been holding back studies

and field reports from publication that are contrary to their stated

objectives... anyone one can claim success when they withhold

piublication of the projects that failed, alter data and quote out of


Results from a NHTSA study:  According to a random national sample of drivers surveyed by telephone  in 1998:

"Drivers who felt it was more dangerous to drive now compared to a year ago were asked to elaborate.  One driver in five (20%) specifically mentioned careless or inattentive drivers. This was followed by faster drivers or speeders (18%); aggressive, reckless and risky driving (14%); young drivers coming of age (10%); and drivers on alcohol or drugs (10%)."

The above shows that 30% of the nation, or 54 million drivers, thought there was an increase in aggressive driving from 1997 to 1998.  Twice as many drivers thought it remained the same.

"Almost two drivers in five (38%) in Region VIII (Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming) felt drivers in their area were driving either a lot more aggressively (16%) or somewhat more aggressively (22%) than they were a year ago. One-third (34%) of the drivers in Region X (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington) also felt drivers in their area were more aggressive. Conversely, drivers in Region VII (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska) were the least willing to say drivers in their area were driving either a lot more aggressively (10%) or somewhat more aggressively (14%) than they were last year."

From Wed Mar 4 19:19:01 1998
Date: Wed, 4 Mar 1998 16:36:46 -1000
To: "''" <>
Subject: Road Rage

I must say that I do agree with much of what I see here. It is a little
difficult, however, to fathom much of this being of assistance in a town
such as Austin. This is one of the worst towns in the country to be a
driver in. If if weren't for idiot rubbernecks and morons who do not
know how to enter and exit from freeways here, we wouldn't have as many

I am by no means a perfect driver, but I do try to be as
courteous as possible to others around me. It really chaps me that some
people will hold up traffic to gawk and peer at the misfortune of
others. These are the people who should be dragged out of their cars
and choked on the spot
. Well, a little tension release can't hurt now,
especially if we can make public examples of boneheads such as these.


Date: Sun, 20 Oct 1996 07:06:10 -1000
From: "Dr. Edward Jakobovits, Ph.D.

Reminds me of a little skit by George Carlin, the comedian:

Ever notice when you're driving down the road how everyone is driving at the wrong speed -- everyone driving slower than you is an Idiot, and everyone driving faster than you is a Maniac.

I always felt this was a good description of the situation.


Date: Sun, 27 Sep 1998 20:39:39 -1000

Subject: My Husband's Road Rage

Earlier this evening, we were driving home on the highway and a pickup truck sped up behind us to pass us from the right while the right lane was merging into ours, and cut us off after "his" lane was already gone. My husband refused to let him in, keeping at the same speed as him. Then he flashed his brights at the pickup as he got in front of us. Although I agreed with my husband that the other guy was being rude and dangerous, I was upset that my husband continued the aggressive driving pattern.

He doesn't think he was doing anything wrong, just "showing him that he was being a jerk."  I said, fine, if you want to do that while you're in the car alone, but not with the rest of the family. We had a 5-year-old and an infant in the back seat. We got into a huge argument over this.  I said he didn't know whether flashing his brights at the guy would cause the guy to become angry and start a "road war." My husband said I was being paranoid and he wasn't going to be scared to show his opinion to others just because it might make someone mad. I think, that as a father, he needed to keep the safety of his wife and children in mind, as well as others on the road, and just let the other guy be a jerk.  Am I wrong?.


From Tue May 5 16:06:17 1998
Date: Tue, 5 May 1998 15:15:34 -1000
From: Joe Casey

Subject: Your site

Read through your site; found it quite interesting. I am very much in agreement with you when you state this is culturally related.    I, like most other people, have been guilty of behaving like a jerk on the road. Luckily I survived and have mostly grown up--plus moved to a very low density state where cows outnumber cars.  Prior to retiring I made a daily commute in rat race mode, and things were getting spooky.   I still have memories of a semitruck's bumper about ten feet behind my VW Rabbit with my two kids in the back seat.  I never could figure out what would make someone do that... Keep up the work--even if it does mean cultural overhaul.  We need it anyway.


From Fri May 29 17:44:45 1998
Date: Fri, 29 May 1998 14:11:42 -1000

Subject: Re: Aggressive Drivers

Dear Dr. Driving:
One of the things I have noticed is that often times drivers feel they are making progress by lunging the car around.  Instead of easing on power and steadily increasing speed (even if they exceed the speed limit). They surge from brake to gas. This jerking around seems to give then a feeling of accomplishment.   Kind of like when someone who has only fired a water pistol tries to fire a real gun. They instinctively jerk the trigger as if that will help the bullet travel any faster. Because that's what it looks like on TV.


From: "SD"   Mon Jun 8 11:10:54 1998
Date: Mon, 8 Jun 1998 03:26:59 -1000
To: Leon James <>

Subject: Re: teaching kids road rage

Dr. Driving,

Thanks for your reply. I like your comments about teaching kids when they are youngsters. I started thinking about my driving habits and how I call people "jerks" and I would never do that at home.



From Mon Jun 8 14:00:27 1998
Date: Mon, 8 Jun 1998 12:44:39 -1000

Subject: Road Rage

An interesting and worthwhile subject of study. I find myself, normally calm, cool and collected, being rocketed into roadrage by specific things. After examining the pattern, I found that I got most angry when other drivers committed rude, minor traffic violations WITH IMPUNITY. Such as: pulling onto a highway from a sideroad, causing an entire line of traffic to slow down to halfspeed while the idiot gets going; such as speeding up the right hand lane and forcing their way into traffic when the lane ends, rather than line up like the rest of us.

It is not the fact that the idiots do these things, it's the fact that NOTHING IS DONE about it. Here in London, there is now an Accident Reporting Center, where one takes one car if it has been involved in an accident. Police are only called for damage over $700 or if there are injuries. If neither exists, police are not called, and both parties report to the center to have the damages assessed and reported for our no-fault insurance program. Doesn't matter if the other guy blew a stop sign and t-boned your car, police are not called, no tickets are given, and no-fault pays for everything. The laws of the land are not being enforced, and those who do make a policy of obeying the law are put in the position of being fools for doing so. Meanwhile the idiot lawbreakers go merrily on their way, oblivious to their stupidity and carelessness. And the rest of us fume......


Subject: Aggressive Drivers and Road Rage
From: "GT" Date: 1997/08/25
Message-Id: 4@gdeggh

Well I have got to put in my two cents worth. I am 45 and feel that I have had ample driving experience with numerous muscle cars and sports cars. Not perfect, do make a mistake now and then, but pretty damn capable. Yes, I am aggressive if that means that I drive a little faster than posted and get irritated over idiots.

There is nothing more irritating than people who are totally inconsiderate. Like the idiot that is merging onto a highway and expects you to move and let him on. Why should I have to adjust for him?

Or the numbnuts that sit through a light. And of course the fool in the left lane going below the speed limit when there is plenty of room in one of the other lanes. Oh WAIT, the one who changes lanes right in front of you or cuts in front of you and then slows down!!!! In my city of Arlington, TX the city council has decided that people like myself who exhibit aggressive driving and road rage are the problem and are taking action against us. Typical liberal thinking, "the poor idiot drivers can't help themselves so we the government must".

Unfortunately the real reason is that there are so many more stupid, inconsiderate, and inattentive people on the road than there are of us that it is easier to attack and penalize the competent. (again liberalism). Thanks for letting me take up your bandwidth and vent.

Which received this answer:

Well Greg, I can sympathize with ya. But one thing is for certain, there will always be more "numbnuts" out there driving than "non-numbnuts" like you and me (the population is growing exponentially), so for your blood pressures sake, get used to it. And since I'm approaching your age I too have a bit of driving experience. I've noticed that when I get pissed at another driver's actions and I let it get to me, I start driving like a jerk, and then I just piss off other drivers, on and on it goes until we all pull off the road and forget what hell even happened to get so pissed... We all have little to no control over what other people do, the only control we have is for our own emotions and actions. The nice thing about having a muscle car is that if I feel like cruising slow, I will, and the hustle and bustle can just go on by. But if someone tailgates me, acts weird, or whatever I just drop the hammer, boom!, I'm outa there. 999 times out of a 1000 they can't keep up with me.

The letters reveal the pattern of thinking of drivers about each other.  About half of the population thinks with a negative or oppositional attribution bias, which means that they choose a personally derogatory explanation of another driver's actions when these actions are perceived as threatening.  Let's look at the differences between these two types of mental states:  one negative and oppositional, the other positive and cooperative.  The negative oppositional mode of thinking and emoting is the normal (culturally sanctioned) starting point for a driver's career.



of Oppositional Driving

Emotionally Intelligent Remedies




Obsessing about slow traffic

"At this rate we’ll never get there" , "I feel like I’m going backwards" , "Now I’m stuck behind this slow driver" etc. Leave earlier; Give up getting there on time; Distract yourself with radio or music; Admire the scenery; Practice yoga breathing




Feeling combative with self-righteous indignation

"This jerk just cut me off—gotta give him a piece of my mind" , "I don’t deserve to be pushed around" , "Nobody gives me the finger and gets away with it" "Nobody should fool with me and get away with it"; etc. Make funny animal sounds; Make up some possible excuses for that driver; Think about your parents and children who might do the same thing; Think about being a saint




Feeling excessively competitive

"Darn, that guy made the light and I didn’t" , "How come that lane is faster than this one" , "Those pedestrians better watch out—I’m coming through" , etc. Tell yourself it’s just a habit from childhood to feel anxious about not winning, or being left behind; Remind yourself it feels good to be civil and helpful



Being over-critical

"Look at that idiot who forgets to turn off his signal" , "I can’t stand it the way he slows down and speeds up, slows down and speeds up" , "How can he pay attention to the road if he’s babbling on the phone" Tell yourself it’s human to make mistakes; Recall to yourself your own mistakes; Remind yourself that patience is a virtue; Try to maneuver your car away from that car



Love of risk taking

"I like to go fast, but I’m careful" , "I can make this light if I speed up" , "I can squeeze into that opening if I time it right" , "I can insult that driver ‘cause I can get away fast" , etc. Think of your loved ones and how they would feel if something happened to you; Tell yourself you prefer to be a mature and prudent person.

Read down the Symptoms column and try to identify the attribution bias.  For example in behavior area 4, Being Over-critical, a person might say or think:, Look at that idiot who forgets to turn off his signal.  This is not an objective statement.  It has two parts.  He forgot to turn off the signal, is objective.  He is an idiot, is subjective.  It is not an explanation but a put down.  Its purpose is to insult or punish as a way of retaliation.  Similarly with the other statements.  Go over each and try to isolate the objective part and the subjective part.

Consider the examples in behavior area 2, Righteous Indignation.  Why does a person say, Nobody gives me the finger and gets away with it.  The individual feels insulted and wants to retaliate.  The justification for the planned punishment is that you need to protect your self-worth which was attacked when the other driver insulted you.  This way of thinking is symbolic and subjective, not real or actual.  If you ignore the insult, it doesn't mean the other is getting away with it.  It only means that you choose to not to respond in kind.

Now let's look at some other symptoms of confrontational thinking behind the wheel.  Here are the results for remaining three items for attribution bias:

5)  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%  AB5           No, I do not agree  52%   AB5

6)  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%  AB6           No, I do not agree  78%  AB6

7)  If two drivers start yelling at each other, then one of them gets out of the car and starts a fist fight with 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%  AB7           No, I do not agree  83%  AB5

Let's look at number 7.  It's evident 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 6 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's always the other driver who tries to do you in.  That's not reality.   But I assuming that mental state, it becomes a false reality, that is, a delusion.

Item 5 splits the population down the middle.  The logic of the situation 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.).


Type of Driver Intelligence

Accurate Focus
on the Other Driver

Area of Driver Competence

Personality Context



Caring about the...

  • motivations
  • intentions
  • emotions
  • reactions
  • feelings
  • attitudes
  • values

of other drivers

  • character
  • morality
  • conscience



Understanding the...

  • needs
  • suffering
  • fears
  • rights
  • convenience
  • self-worth

of other drivers

  • social intelligence
  • education



Acting with...

  • respect
  • civility
  • alertness
  • compassion
  • coordination
  • caution
  • tolerance

toward other drivers

  • safety
  • low risk
  • happiness
  • community


The above Table shows that drivers have   three intelligences.  First, affective intelligence is the ability to care about the feelings of other drivers and it is called automotive sympathy.  It is grounded in one's morality and conscience.   Second, cognitive intelligence is the ability to understand the rights and needs of other drivers and is called automotive empathyThird, sensorimotor intelligence is the ability to act with civility, alertness, and caution towards other drivers and is called automotive excellence.  It is grounded in one's sense of safety, happiness and community.

It is important to realize that affective intelligence dominates the other two.  When we place ourselves in the mental state called automotive sympathy, we not only care about the feelings of other drivers, but we also understand them better.  Affective intelligence, which is the ability to make yourself care, produces the cognitive intelligence called automotive empathy.  This is the ability to understand the intentions and feelings of the other drivers.  The reverse is also true.  Choose to remain in an uncaring mental attitude, such as being cynical and thinking of other drivers as jerks, idiots, and morons, and you will deprive yourself of automotive empathy:  the ability to understand the emotions and reactions of other drivers.  So the two must go together, like a marriage.

Finally, when the automotive marriage of sympathy and empathy is consummated in the driver's mind, the consequences for the way we drive are truly remarkable.  The result is driving with sensorimotor intelligence, which is automotive excellence:  driving with safety, happiness, and community feelings.   Choose to remain with a lack of caring for other drivers, and you will become vulnerable to all sorts of illusions and delusions about the other driver's intentions, needs, and rights.  They will have little rights in your mind and their convenience and safety will take the backseat to your intentions, needs, and rights.  The consequences to your driving will be a lack of automotive excellence.  This is called aggressive driving and road rage.

So aggressive driving is a consequence of low sensorimotor intelligence (not being alert, taking dangerous risks, and ignoring civility).  These bad driving behaviors are the result of false thinking:  e.g., attribution bias ( as discussed above), and other delusions about what other drivers are doing (e.g., "cutting me off" instead of "needing to enter my lane").  Finally, these faulty thinking patterns are created to satisfy our automotive cynicism.  In other words, if we're willing to enjoy calling a driver jerk and moron, we're conditioning ourselves to faulty thinking about those drivers.  The result is aggressive driving.  We have a moral choice to make.  It starts with automotive sympathy, which is to make ourselves care about the other driver's convenience and feelings.  That brings understanding and correct thinking about the driver's intentions and reactions.  The two together bring about automotive excellence.

Driving psychology gives us the knowledge by which we can manage our driver personality as the task of driving is becoming increasingly complex making multiple demands on us--legal, economic, social, behavioral, and moral.

Other Survey Results:   Aggressive Driving in Relation to Gender, Age, and Type of Car

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