Driving Psychology (Psy409a); October 19, 2006

Ways to Promote Supportive Driving

By: Kasey Vanderhoof


Instructions for this activity are found at:


Instructor: Dr. Leon James



Leon James and Diane Nahl (2000). Road Rage and Aggressive Driving: Steering

Clear of Highway Warfare. (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books). Reviewing pages 151 to 189.


Children and Road Rage


  1. Road Rage Nursery
    1. The feeling of road rage is inherited through the culture of disrespect which is condoned on highways

                                                              i.      Motorists don’t try to hide their road rage because it is something people are usually proud of

1.      This makes it common for children to hear adults swearing at other drivers and acting aggressively on the road

a.      Children then do and say as their parents and other adults do because they look up to them

b.      Their emotional reactions are shaped by mimicking the feelings of adults

c.       What you do, children will value

                                                                                                                                      i.      If you are a hothead, they will value that

                                                                                                                                    ii.      If you let them behave unsafely, they will value that

                                                                                                                                  iii.      If you wear your seatbelt, they will value that

                                                                                                                                  iv.      If you respect other drivers, they will value others as well

    1. Long before people actually start driving, they learn to be aggressive

                                                              i.      They do this as children witnessing adults behaviors

    1. To stop road rage in the future, we need to help children build emotional intelligence through modeling

                                                              i.      This means that we need to act how we would like our children to act

                                                            ii.      We can also show them how passengers behaviors you value and reward them for being a good passenger

1.      Rewarding for doing something good is often better than punishing them for doing something bad

a.      You should reward them frequently with small items (or even through verbal rewards) which help to shape a child’s behavior in a positive way

  1. Verbal Rewards For Good Passengers
    1. Children need a lot of frequent positive reinforcement for doing the right things inside of the car

                                                              i.      Verbal rewards are a really good way to reinforce a positive behavior

1.      These give children a good idea of what adults value

a.      For example, if you say, “Thanks for being a good passenger today,” they know that you value this

b.      Since children want to please their parents, they will adopt these values

    1. Acknowledging their contribution to a safe ride will help instill in them a desire to become safe and kind drivers later in life
  1. Children’s Road Rage
    1. Children and adolescents alike, have a tendency to provoke drivers

                                                              i.      This can lead to devastating consequences

                                                            ii.      They do so as pedestrians

    1. Children are capable of all kinds of road rage, especially fantasy road rage

                                                              i.      They often pretend to be violent and drivers often resort to aggressive tactics to make them behave

    1. Teaching children safety rules will help them to develop good habits as pedestrians, and eventually as drivers
    2. Children are capable of witnessing their own pedestrian behaviors

                                                              i.      This helps them to make informed and safe decisions when they around traffic

  1. Children Against Road Rage
    1. Was founded in 1997
    2. A work book was created as an interactive website for collecting and promoting a driving psychology learning curriculum for children
    3. Is a driving psychology curriculum designed to contain and reverse the road rage epidemic

                                                              i.      Main goal is to train children in emotional intelligence

                                                            ii.      They do various exercises and activities where children are encouraged to produce self-witnessing reports that describe their feelings, thoughts, and actions while on the road as pedestrians, cyclists, or passengers in cars and buses

    1. Training children to acknowledge aggressive behavior can prevent the unconscious absorption of aggressive traits

                                                              i.      When they are taught supportive driving attitudes, they become more aware of the attitudes they are exposed to and are more able to make the choice to reject hostility toward other road users

    1. Children are exposed to aggressive driving all the time

                                                              i.      You can prevent them from becoming aggressive themselves by letting them know that even though you fail sometimes and become aggressive yourself, as they have witnessed, you still believe that a supportive style is an ideal that is a worthwhile goal to strive for

  1. Drivers Behaving Badly (DBB)
    1. Before children become drivers they are exposed to thousands of scenes on television that depict drivers behaving badly

                                                              i.      It is important that you discuss these events with children

1.      This way they will not do what they see

2.      You can also let them know that a lot of what they see on television is not real and shows have the tendency to:

a.      Minimize risk and injury

b.      Give us a distorted image of danger, consequences, and seriousness of injury

c.       Do things that are illegal, dangerous, rude, unlikely in real life, not admirable, and things that show weak character


Supportive Driving


  1. Benefits Of Supportive Driving
    1. Supportive driving is an accommodating style that emphasizes adjusting to the great diversity of highway users and steering clear of the emotional entrapments of road rage thinking

                                                              i.      Not all drivers can be treated alike

1.      For example, visitors are slower to recognize signs that are familiar to locals, in turn they often break the pace of traffic flow

a.      You cannot treat visitors the same as locals because of this fact

    1. There exists two methods to deal with driver pluralism and diversity

                                                              i.      The most common way is to oppose driver pluralism, to denounce it, and to strive to ban diversity

1.      “Get these incompetent people off the road!”

2.      “Don’t give bad drivers a license!”

                                                            ii.      The more democratic way accommodates to the diversity of driver needs and purposes

1.      Everyone needs to get to their destination

    1. Having a good attitude towards other drivers often:

                                                              i.      Helps contain road rage

                                                            ii.      Reduces stress

                                                          iii.      Boosts the immune system

                                                          iv.      Fosters community spirit

                                                            v.      Protects from emotional or physical injury

                                                          vi.      Protects from financial liability

  1. Motorist-To-Motorist Communication
    1. If we can make a good way for drivers to communicate then we could reduce a lot of the stresses related to driving
    2. In the late 1980’s, the National Motorists Association proposed seven new motorist signals:

                                                              i.      Apology

1.      Hold two fingers in a V position, palm out

                                                            ii.      Slow Down, Danger Ahead

1.      For oncoming traffic: Turn your head lights off and on

2.      For traffic behind you: Activate your break lights or extend you left arm and motion downward

                                                          iii.      Lane Courtesy (Please Yield Left Lane)

1.      While traveling on a multilane highway, you wish to pass another vehicle that is in the left “passing” lane

2.      To alert the other driver, turn on and off your left blinker four to six blinks at a time

3.      If the other driver doesn’t respond, briefly flash your headlights to get their attention

4.      If you see this signal, move over into the slower right lane and allow the other driver to pass

                                                          iv.      Pull Over for Problem

1.      You come across someone who is about to have a flat or is losing something from their car

a.      Point to the direction of the problem

b.      Then signal, “thumbs down”

2.      If you receive this signal, pull over and check your car

                                                            v.      Light Problem (Check Your Lights)

1.      A bulb has burnt out in another car or a blinker light has been left on

a.      Open and close you hand touching the thumb and fingertips together

                                                          vi.      Need Assistance

1.      You are on the side of the road and need help

a.      Make the sign of a T by crossing one hand above the other

                                                        vii.      I Understand (Thank You)

1.      To acknowledge another driver’s signal or to thank them for their courtesy

a.      Give them a “thumbs up” or and “OK” signal

  1. Training For Supportive Driving
    1. Focuses on facilitating other drivers’ efforts to accomplish what they want instead of competing against them

                                                              i.      For example, if someone is trying to pass you, don’t speed up

1.      Instead, keep your speed and allow the other driver to go in front of you

    1. “Eating up traffic waves”

                                                              i.      This means that in heavy traffic you keep the gap between you and the car in front of you large enough to allow other cars to enter that lane without you having to slow down that much

1.      If people did this, many traffic jams could be avoided

    1. You must also begin to sympathize with other drivers

                                                              i.      Remember “sympathy brings empathy and understanding, and deeper insights into self and others”

  1. Come Out Swinging Positive
    1. Since there are billions of angry interactions between motorists every year, it is smart to be prepared with positive strategies to handle them

                                                              i.      Hostile tactics will not protect you

                                                            ii.      Positive strategies effectively disarm a potential aggressor

    1. To understand this technique you need to contrast the three philosophies that determine how people drive

                                                              i.      Level One: Oppositional driving philosophy

1.      A culture of disrespect on highways

a.      “What an idiot, they don’t know how to drive”

2.      The trigger theory of anger

a.      “They made me do it; it is their fault.”

                                                            ii.      Level Two: Defensive driving philosophy

1.      Treating all drivers in the same way

a.      “You must always be wary of suspicious.”

2.      Maintaining a competitive attitude

a.      “It’s me against them.”

                                                          iii.      Level Three: Supportive driving philosophy

1.      A supportive attitude toward other drivers

a.      “Everybody makes mistakes sometimes.”

2.      Accommodation to diversity

a.      “Everyone has a right to use the road.”

    1. Adopt an empathetic frame of mind and be apologetic, specifically and loudly declaring your regret about whatever happened

                                                              i.      The less you defend yourself and the more you defend the other’s ego, the more control you can exercise to defuse the situation

    1. Zen driving

                                                              i.      The purpose is to achieve an “inner equilibrium” with the “car-driver-road ecosystem,” giving us the ability to synchronize with each other’s rhythm, “interconnected with the Whole without losing our individuality.”

                                                            ii.      A good way to prepare oneself for becoming a supportive driver for life

  1. Road Rage Against Passengers
    1. Some drivers verbally abuse passengers when they show fear or discomfort due to their driving
    2. Some drivers ignore their passengers concerns

                                                              i.      This is a lot more common than you may think

                                                            ii.      Some drivers ignore the fact that passengers have to use the bathroom because they feel a sense of accomplishment by making good timing

1.      Stopping to let someone use the restroom may interrupt this sense of accomplishment because the trip will take longer

    1. Others threaten their passengers psychologically and physically by driving aggressively
    2. We must learn to appreciate what passengers have to say

                                                              i.      They may help to make us better drivers

1.      They give us an outsiders perspective




  1. Road Rage Hearing
    1. http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/trans/hpw105-34.000/hpw105-34_0.HTM
    2. This website is an actual hearing discussing road rage and aggressive driving.  It discusses the causes and dangers of aggressive driving.  Although this hearing pertains to the problem in Utah, it can still gives us an outlook that road rage and aggressive driving is becoming a big problem and people are starting to do things about it.
  2. Road Rage Nursery
    1. http://www.momsteam.com/alpha/departments/regularseason/rage_prevention.shtml
    2. This website talks about how the back seat of a car is a road rage nursery because a lot of moms tend to be aggressive drivers.  It also gives some advice for moms to prevent road rage in their children.  It mainly talks about how adults are children’s role models.  It also gives you some links for further information.
  3. National Motorist Association
    1. http://www.motorists.com/info/road_rage.html
    2. This website is about the National Motorist Association and it gives a summary about road rage.  It discusses what drivers as well as the government should do to help stop road rage.  It also discusses the dangers of aggressive driving.


My homepage: http://www.soc.hawaii.edu/leon/409af2006/vanderhoof/vanderhoof-home.htm

Class Homepage: http://www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/leonj/leonpsy25/classhome-g25.htm