Decalcomania 2008

Of course, it’s July and it’s hot, which some people might find makes them a bit angrier, but if you really want to pinpoint an aggressive driver, you might watch out for bumper stickers:

[A] study published in the June issue of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology suggests that drivers with bumper stickers, window decals and personalized license plates are more likely to succumb to road rage.

Paul Bell, the Colorado State University psychology professor who co-authored the study, said it was based on the theory that there are three types of territory: primary, secondary and public. When an area is private, the person will go to lengths to protect it and may become aggressive, according to the theory.

The more personal a driver makes his or her car, the more likely that driver will feel the need to defend it when someone gets in the way, even though the road is a public area, Bell said.

“They take it as an offense against their private territory,” he said. “They get confused about the social norms about defending a primary versus a public territory.”

It does not seem to matter which type of personalization is used, Bell said.

I have no stickers, not even AAA Plus, and I’m not particularly aggressive on the road, but the more I think about this premise, the more I think it’s a load of dingo’s kidneys.

Speaking of AAA, Chuck Mai of the Oklahoma branch has his doubts as well:

Mai said he thinks people are willing to be more aggressive in their vehicles than in public because vehicles more or less hide the aggressor.

“The problem with the motor vehicle is it offers a certain amount of anonymity,” he said. “Remember, driving is not a contest.” He said one of the reasons he thinks drivers have become more aggressive is because most people are in a hurry while they are driving.

I will state that one almost-infallible way to irk me while I’m on the road is to try to slow me down. Austin, Texas is just jam-packed with road warts aimed at “traffic calming.” Still, my primary concern at those moments is less “I oughta punch out the guy who approved this crap” and more “To whom do I address my lawsuit when my suspension parts go?”

Most frightening: this was the lead story in the Oklahoman this morning, proving that there really is such a thing as a slow news day.





5 comments

  1. Tatyana »

    5 July 2008 · 11:30 am

    I wish it was ever a slow news day here in NY; yesterday, amidst all the festivities, the news channels told us about a 8yo who fell into a backyard pool during a house 4th of July party and drowned; pronounced dead on arrival in the hospital.

  2. fillyjonk »

    5 July 2008 · 12:01 pm

    I don’t know. I realize all too well that “data” is not the plural of “anecdote,” but I’ve known some AWFULLY angry people who had an AWFUL lot of bumper stickers. Almost to the point where I’m ready to claim a correlation between free-floating anger (or at the very least, willing to harangue unwilling participants about one’s favorite cause) and number of stickers.

    Then again, that could just be because I spend a lot of time on college campuses.

    Not so sure on the road-rage thing; that seems to me to be more a function of traffic level and car make/model/color. I tend to steer clear of men driving bright yellow pickup trucks, for example: I figure they feel they have something they must prove.

    I once considered putting an anti-littering sticker on my car but even that seemed a bit much to me.

  3. McGehee »

    5 July 2008 · 12:24 pm

    The moal of the story: if you’re sharing the road with somebody whose car is plastered with bumper stickers, and your cell phone rings, don’t answer it.

  4. McGehee »

    5 July 2008 · 12:25 pm

    It could also be the moral of the story. But probably not the mohel.

  5. Population Statistic »

    8 July 2008 · 11:50 am

    PLATE, THY NAME IS VANITY

    So, vanity license plates.
    Whenever I see one – and I catch sight of at least one per day – part of me wonders why they’re still around. First impulse is to consider them so 1980s, and to assign the same outdated sensibility to the c…

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