Driving Psychology (Psy409a); November 7, 2006

The World of Upgrades

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 254 to 270.


Dream Cars and Driving Realities


  1. In The Driver’s Image
    1. A 1986 report describes an experiment to discover hidden or unconscious motives for buying certain kinds of cars

                                                              i.      Researchers compared the responses to what people liked about cars in a normal state and then in a hypnotized state

1.      Normal state

a.      Price, reliability, comfort, and appearance were important

2.      Hypnotized state

a.      They spoke of the liberating sense of freedom that driving brings and the sense of exhilaration that comes from driving fast

b.      Precautions like wearing a seat belt were dismissed as timid and unnecessary

c.       They imagined a lot of things to be pleasant that really are not, for example, driving in traffic

d.      All other drivers were considered friendly “beings of power” that were in control of wonderful machines in beautiful highway settings

e.      Their dream cars were ultrafast, amphibious, and powerful, with luxury features

    1. Car commercials appeal to unfulfilled fantasies of distinction, uniqueness, independence, and superiority

                                                              i.      Their message is, “Own this particular car and you’ll have these desired qualities

    1. Self witnessing reports of drivers frequently reveal that they correlate the car’s appearance with its driver
    2. Ego and self image are intertwined with a sense of control and power expressed in the names manufacturers give to their models

                                                              i.      Jaguar, Cougar, Eagle, Mustang, Blazer, Wrangler, Taurus, Viper, Cobra, Range Rover, Explorer

    1. Car ads use words that describe cars in terms that evoke human drama and emotion

                                                              i.      Impulse, wild, spirit, dream, passion

    1. A lot of music also celebrates taking pride in your vehicle, feelings of superiority in speed and horsepower, independence, partying, and a freewheeling lifestyle
    2. A new car is sold as a status symbol and as an extension of oneself
    3. The way that we think and feel about cars could contribute to the current negative culture on highways by encouraging and romanticizing status competition, aggressiveness, hostility, envy, intolerance, and disrespect for other drivers
    4. Many of us who have grown up in the car culture have developed a subconscious fear of looking like wimps on the road

                                                              i.      This dramatic inner outlook unknowingly influences how people feel behind the wheel, what thoughts they have when driving, and how they treat each other on the road

    1. A love for your car can be used to promote supportive driving

                                                              i.      If you love you car then you do not want to bang it up

1.      This may happen if you drive aggressively


  1. Driving Music
    1. Listening to music has become a big part of driving

                                                              i.      Most people listen to music while they drive

                                                            ii.      Sound systems are the most popular accessory, and drivers often spend hundreds of dollars on good ones

    1. Drivers are effected by music

                                                              i.      They often choose music types that have a desired effect for them and avoid others

    1. A correspondent sent a school report on her teenaged friends

                                                              i.      They took longer to apply the breaks when a sign came up while driving to loud music

                                                            ii.      They responded to signs faster when no music was playing

    1. Music has the power to calm or to excite, to soothe or to inflame
    2. If listening to music works to ease aggressive thoughts and feelings while driving, it can be an effective preventive agent
    3. If drivers listen to provocative music that encourages aggressive thinking, it may exaggerate emotional reactions in routine incidents


  1. Dashboard Dining
    1. Twenty-first century cars are being equipped for safer and more comfortable eating experiences

                                                              i.      The latest in-car appliances include

1.      mini-microwaves

2.      refrigerated glove boxes

3.      coolers designed for autos, trucks, and utility vehicles

4.      trays that fold down, as in passenger aircrafts

5.      warming cup holders

6.      trash compactors

    1. Eating in the car is becoming more and more common

                                                              i.      Fast food chains are responding by designing specialties that are easier to eat behind the wheel.  Here are a couple examples:

1.      Taco Bell folds the tortillas in a certain way so that the food and juices stay inside; the tortillas are made more durable and taco shells less crumbly

2.       McDonald’s has the McSalad Shaker.  The salad comes in a plastic container that fits in a cup holder.  Add the dressing, fasten the top, shake it up, and eat with a long fork

    1. Eating while driving is common but risky

                                                              i.      A business executive, hurrying between meetings, took her eye off the road to take a bit of a hamburger and went right through a red light

    1. The car is one of the favorite places to eat

                                                              i.      It is estimated that Americans eat about 18 percent of their meals in the car

                                                            ii.      Fast food restaurants report that 50% of their sales occur at the drive-through window

    1. It is not that people should stop eating in their cars, but that like other forms of multitasking while driving, one needs to train oneself to do it safely, to dashboard dine with emotional intelligence


  1. Car Phones
    1. Whether handheld , with headset, or built-in, car phone use is on the rise

                                                              i.      More drivers use them and more people complain about the drivers who do

    1. Research supported by the AAA Foundations for Traffic Safety in 1991 concluded that “use of cellular phones does not interfere significantly with the ability to control an automobile except among the elderly, where potentially dangerous lane excursions can occur”

                                                              i.      These findings were based on the reactions of drivers in a traffic simulation task on a computer

                                                            ii.      Despite the optimistic conclusion, their results also showed that drivers who get involved in deep conversations have slower reaction times in routine events and sometimes fail to react altogether to some events to which they normally would react to when they are not on the phone

                                                          iii.      The study showed that older drivers, people who are 55 and older, are twice as likely to be distracted by phone use compared to younger drivers

    1. Like said with dashboard dining, it is not thought that talking while driving should not happen but that people need to know how to be competent and safe car phone users by training themselves to be able to drive and talk

                                                              i.      First you need to learn the mechanics of calling

1.      How to dial a number safely

                                                            ii.      Then you need to learn how talk while driving and to do so safely

    1. The phone cannot be used as an excuse for slowing down or interfering with the expectations of other drivers


  1. Mobile Computing
    1. We are beginning to see a lot of sophistication built into cars

                                                              i.      People can use computers in their cars to do many things

1.      Check e-mail, sports scores and stock quotes to name a few

    1. Auto suppliers estimate that the new market for in-car computers, called “automotive telematics,” will quickly reach $10 billion in the United States alone
    2. There are many features that help make in-car computers “safer”

                                                              i.      Voice commands

                                                            ii.      Computer robot reads your e-mails aloud

                                                          iii.      Screen is displayed on the windshield so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road

    1. The politically correct way to refer to your car now is to call it your “mobile environment”
    2. There are a lot of people on the road who would like to be able to keep working when they are in their cars
    3. There are many systems built into cars nowadays

                                                              i.      Now you can watch DVD’s and play video games

1.      This helps to keep the kids occupied

                                                            ii.      Ford also offers rear-seat cameras

1.      This enables parents to keep an eye on their kids

                                                          iii.      You can conduct business from your car as well

                                                          iv.      In-car services include

1.      Access to the internet and the World Wide Web

2.      Route support (communication with a service center for asking directions)

3.      Theft protection (tracking a stolen car)

4.      Air bag deployment notification

5.      Summoning an ambulance after a crash

6.      OnStar MED-NET (stores your personal medical history and allows emergency personnel to access this information)

7.      Concierge services, including remote door unlock, road side and accident assistance

    1. These dramatic new technological services for motorists are exciting, but we must ask ourselves what are we doing to equip motorists to drive these dream cars?

                                                              i.      Once again, we need to train drivers to use these equipment devices while driving because asking them to pull off the road to use them is impractical and not many people will do so


  1. Intelligent Transportation Systems 
    1. According to some estimates, the global market for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) products will exceed $200 billion by the year 2015
    2. States use electronic transportation technology to integrate traffic control and traffic management at all levels of public and commercial transportation

                                                              i.      The main functions are used to:

1.      Manage traffic electronically

2.      Make the roads safer

3.      Provide travel information

4.      Control environmental pollution

5.      Route commercial carriers

6.      Manage parking

7.      Quicken toll operations

    1. It has been reported that the Commercial Vehicle Information System Network (CVISN) will connect states through online technology for automated inspections and vehicle registration
    2. A current list of ITS services currently offered of contemplated in diverse agency reports, demonstrates how rapidly the world of driving has been transported to the online world. Here are a few examples:

                                                              i.      En-route driver information

                                                            ii.      Route guidance

                                                          iii.      Traveler services information

                                                          iv.      Online concierge service

                                                            v.      Traffic control incident management

                                                          vi.      Travel demand management

                                                        vii.      Pretrip travel information

    1. IT systems are designed to reduce the driver’s involvement with certain details by automatically taking car of routine requirements
    2. The ultimate effect of ITS on aggressive driving has not been investigated

                                                              i.      But while electronic assistance for motorists may compensate for driver error and improve both monitoring and communication functions that drivers depend on, drivers must wait many years before these enhancements are affordable

  1. Managing In The New World Of Driving
    1. Driving has taken on a new meaning as an interactive, multitasking operation that involves piloting a heavy, moving communication platform or mobile office, complete with dashboard dining and backseat multimedia
    2. Inevitably, cars will continue to evolve technologically

                                                              i.      We must realize that drivers need training in order to operate these types of cars

    1. It has not yet entered the consciousness of the automotive world that people need training in order to use these technology advanced cars

                                                              i.      In the future though, training will take a prominent role because of its impact on safety

    1. A recent poll reports that 49% feel some or a lot of anxiety when sitting in traffic, 35% are somewhat or very overwhelmed, and 51% feel some or a lot of stress in traffic

                                                              i.      People think that it is just the congestion and delays, but most stress is due to aggressive and incompetent driving, exacerbated by the increasing pressures to multitask in vehicles

                                                            ii.      Since our driving environment will continue to increase in complexity, the real solution to combating commuting stress lies chiefly within the individual

    1. The cultural inheritance of aggressive driving and road rage is spreading with each new generation and it is becoming a bigger problem with each new generation as well

                                                              i.      This inheritance can be stopped if an entire generation of drivers declares itself against highway cynicism, and collectively adopts and supports new norms of civility and skill on roads



  1. Car Phones
    1. http://bicycleuniverse.info/cars/cellphones.html
    2. This website talks about the dangers of talking on the phone while driving.  It actually says that cell phone use while driving may actually be just as dangerous as drunk driving.  There is also a link at the top of this website talking about the dangers of using hand-free phones.
  2. Driving and Listening to Music
    1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3623237.stm
    2. This website talks about the dangers of driving and listening to loud music.  It says it slows your reaction time as well as interferes with your hearing.  It does not allow you to hear sirens that are approaching.
  3. Eating While Driving
    1. http://www.paulalicata.com/driving_&_eating.htm
    2. This website talks about the dangers of eating and driving.  It gives examples of different things that people eat or drink while driving and how they may affects ones ability to drive.  For instance, it talks about drinking coffee and big gulps and eating an ice cream cone which I am sure we are all guilty of at one point in our lives.


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