Report 2:

My Understanding of Driving Psychology


By Brigette Duclos


Instructions for this report are at:



Question 2:

Give a brief review of our two textbooks: Road Rage and Aggressive Driving (James and Nahl), and Driving Lessons: Exploring Systems That Make Traffic Safer (Peter Rothe, Editor). The reviews should be between 3 and 6 paragraphs for each text. Select one Chapter from each text and give a summary of it. Discuss in what way will these ideas contribute to society's driving problems.

Road Rage and Aggressive Driving, by Dr. Leon James and Dr. Diane Nahl is a book focused to help guide and advise people on how to improve their driving skills on a affective, cognitive and sensorimotor level.  These are also defined as the drivers “threefold self”.  The book takes a deeper look into the psychological aspects of people while they drive.  It discusses how road rage and aggressive driving have become a social epidemic and are transforming our roads to a scary and unsafe place to be.  It provides steps that one must go through in order to change their aggressive driving on the road to a more positive and safe type of driving.  The main objective of this book is to help people acquire self-witnessing and self-modification skills in respect to their driving behavior. It aims to change and better drivers attitudes and behaviors while on the road.

The three domains mentioned above, that make up the drivers “threefold self” can define a persons driving behavior.  The diver’s “affective self” consists of a persons feelings and motivations while driving.  The “cognitive self” stands for the thinking and reasoning we do behind the wheel.  Lastly, the “sensorimotor self” presents the sensations, perceptions, and motor acts we perform while operating a vehicle.  There are many factors that affect and attribute to a driver “threefold self”.  Things such as society, biology, culture, personal characteristics etc. all contribute to a drivers habits, attitude and behavior.

The book suggests that in order for a person to change their objective attitude while driving they must complete a three-step driver self-improvement program.  The first step to this program is to acknowledge.  One needs to acknowledge that they need help of how to deal with their own road rage.  Every driver, including himself or herself needs traffic emotions education.  The second step is to act as a witness or self-witness their actual behavior while driving.  They have to be conscious of their thoughts, feelings and actions while driving.  This serves to identify the type and degree of aggressive driving and road rage by the individual.  To help, one may practice self-witnessing, which is the practice or act of verbalizing thoughts and feelings during driving to help create a play-by-play description.  The third step is to modify the certain behaviors that you want to change.  This change should be one at a time, and continue throughout a driver’s career. 

Chapter 5, Emotional Intelligence for Drivers (pages, 111-132) describes in detail most of what is discussed above.  This chapter explains how road rage is triggered, the transformation from “oppositional thinking” to “supportive thinking”, and the idea of self-witnessing, along with other helpful information. 

Road rage is developed from a series of escalating emotions.  It occurs when a person attributes a driver’s negative behavior and takes it personal. Road rage is determined by rationalizations and self-righteous justifications.  This is a problem and contributes to our societies driving problems because when our beliefs or values are challenged, we tend to get protective.  This causes people to retaliate and become aggressive. 

This chapter says that one must change ones oppositional driving mode that comes from negative orientation or thoughts to a supportive driving mode that comes from a positive orientation.  Positive orientation is (pro-social) when one focuses on oneself, the “me” and “my” feelings.  This is considered pro-social because it takes on responsibility.  It is rational and objective and strays away from a positive orientation.  Negative orientation is (antisocial) wants to constantly blame, punish and retaliate.  On page 123 in the book, there is an example of how one should change their thinking.  It shows giving respect for others vs. thinking only on oneself: when you think of saying “they’d better stay out of my way!” Change that to- “I wish there was no traffic, but these people have to get to their destinations too”.  We have to change our attitudes while driving because when we are in a bad mood it affects the way we drive and also the drivers around us.

The idea of self-witnessing is to develop a dual perception of ourselves.  A form of self-questioning yourself to reduce intensity of aggressive emotions, it provides time for emotions to die down.  Self-witnessing allows us to foresee consequences, reject the rage route, and restore order in your domain.  This idea also allows us to observe our negative, aggressive feelings leaving the rational self to observe the emotional self.  Learning and trying to use this concept is crucial to our society because if people aren’t aware of their aggressive behavior, then they can’t change.  People’s negative attitudes and aggressive behaviors are the cause of so many crashes and driving problems.  We need to change! 

The book Driving Lessons: Exploring Systems That Make Traffic Safer, edited by J. Peter Rothe, would appeal to those interested in traffic or system safety.  The book provides information on different systems developed in the approach to traffic safety.  It’s written on the known facts that driving recklessly may lead to injury, loss, or even death.  The statistics are scary and the book seeks to encourage change in the hope that we can make traffic and the roads safer.  The book describes driving as a social act that depends on our adherence to certain, if not all rules.

Driving Lessons was developed from a Mission Possible traffic-safety conference, Traffic Safety Summit ’98.  The book contains articles that reflect a loose design-systems theory that served as the original ideas for the conference.  The main point of the conference was to challenge traditional roles and thinking, and to build knowledge by sampling other research done in multiple disciplines.  From this new understanding, participants hoped to achieve a coordinated action plan.

This book was created from a collection of messages from people around the world who see the problems that we face today with driving.  The book highly encourages intervention or prevention strategies.  It discusses how we can improve issues and strategies that already exist and also proposes ways to address new issues.  The book is filled with tables and figures that include charts, pictures, and models to help give a better understanding of the issues discussed.  

Chapter 16 “Geographic Information Systems, Case-Based Reasoning, and System Design, touches on the issues of speed, traffic, complexity of accidents, and other related topics.  The chapter focuses on speed management and traffic safety as well as the various other factors that influence a driver’s behavior with respect to speed and speeding accidents.  

It is argued that the faster the velocity a car is going before a crash, the more intense the severity of the collision.  Research has proven that a reduction speed of 2-5 km/ph can reduce the injury and fatal collision by 30%.  Other than the speed of a car, other factors come into play with reasons for speed and speeding accidents.  The physical environment such as turns and bends in the road, construction, and speed bumps can contribute to an accident.  The vehicle condition, type, and lack of safety devices can also increase or decrease injury and fatality.  Ultimately, the driver is also a big factor.  The driver’s age, gender, attitude at the moment, condition (intoxicated), as well as other people in the car and the driver’s time restrictions all are factors that contribute to speed and speeding accidents.

Speeding is a dangerous and risky act while driving.  It is one of the biggest factors that lead to car crashes.  People need to realize that going over the speed limit by a couple mph won’t get them to their destination hours ahead of time.  The time saved is minimal, but the risk of getting into a car crash is not.  Speeding has lead to many injuries and deaths over time.  Speeding is something that will never disappear, but we can and must make an attempt to reduce the amount of speeding that goes on.  I think that if people new the statistics of accidents that resulted from speeding, they would be more cautious and try to drive at a reasonable speed.  This would contribute to improving society’s driving problems. 


Question 3

Discuss these two Web sites: vs. What are their main differences? Be sure to consider at least these areas: articles, newsletters, letters, style, probable audience, public relations or policy, advertising, size, ranking.


When I first took a look at each website I didn’t notice much of a difference on the first page.  Both looked like informational websites and looked very professional.  They had a brief overview of what the site contained and helpful links to get to your topic of interest.  Both websites included topics that specified different ages, which invites any age group to browse through the articles.  They both also included information on law enforcement and legislation.  Also, they discussed aggression while driving, and staying in control along with many other articles that deal with driving.  However, after going back and forth in a search for differences, I noticed many. 


Deciding on which website is most informational depends on what you are actually looking for.  The website: is broader.  It includes any topics that have to deal with cars or trucks including articles on: driving and trucking jobs, aggression, law, control, etc.  This website also included information on computer drivers such as: printers, scanners and other computer drive technologies.  The articles were in a way hidden.  To read an article, one has to choose a heading that sounds interesting.  However, one may also type in a key word and do a search.  This website is useful to those who are looking for basic information on cars or trucks.  The font on this site was a bit smaller than that of the website.  It seemed that this site was made for general information and articles on several driving topics. 



For myself, I find the website to be more appealing.  It is more colorful, visual, and has more variety.  This site uses a bigger font, includes more pictures, and is easier to use.  The visuals such as the font, pictures and videos make it more interesting and caught my attention. It is easier to browse through because one just has to scroll down to look at the articles instead of clicking on each one to open.  This site also includes facts, interviews, surveys and tests, books available to buy, stories from the news, and articles on pedestrians and bicyclists as well as drivers.   This site is most likely to target or attract those who want to learn about and or fix their own attitudes on aggressive driving and road rage.  Both websites are informational and can help educated people on various aspects of driving.




  Question 5:

Consider Table 5 in the Lecture Notes, in the Section on Driving Psychology Theory and Charts at  Consult the article from which the Table was taken. Copy and paste the table into your file. Now delete the examples in each cell and replace them with your own examples that you make up. Discuss why driving is such a big problem in all societies and why no effective solutions have yet been found for them. Discuss the solutions offered by Dr. Leon James (DrDriving). What likelihood is there that his approach will be adopted? Explain.

Table 5
Emotionally Intelligent Driver Personality Skills

Driver Competence Skills



Emotionally Intelligent


1. Focusing on self vs. blaming others or the situation

"I hate traffic! Why are their so many dumb people on the road?"

"It doesn’t matter what it is, everything is making me mad today."

2. Understanding how feelings and thoughts act together

"I am so mad, why do people do this to me all the time?"

"I get so mad when I let people get to me."

3. Realizing that anger is something we choose vs. thinking it is provoked

"People make me so mad when they don’t use their blinkers."

"I get myself fired up when I notice that people aren’t using their blinkers."

4. Being concerned about consequences vs. giving in to impulse

"I want to yell at this driver and let him know how I feel."

"If I yell at him, he might get happy that he was able to get to me. I won’t give him that satisfaction.” 

5. Showing respect for others and their rights vs. thinking only of oneself

"They better move fast or move out of my way. I’m in no mood to be nice."

"I wish there was no traffic but it’s not up to me. These people have to get to their destination too."

6. Accepting traffic as collective team work vs. seeing it as individual competition

"I love it when I beat the red light or when I’m the first to take off at a green light."

"I try to keep up with the flow of others on the road. And I know that swerving in and out of lanes slows everyone down. "

7. Recognizing the diversity of drivers and their needs and styles vs. blaming them for what they choose to do

"Why are people so dumb? Why are they looking at the passengers in the back seat when their eyes should be on the road?"

"I need to stray away from drivers that are doing other things in the car. They get distracted quickly."

8. Practicing positive role models vs. negative

"Hurry up! The light is green, what are you waiting for?” 

"This driver is taking too long to go. But if I don’t get this light I can get the other."

9.  Learning to inhibit the impulse to criticize by developing a sense of driving humor

"I hate it when traffic slows down because people want to rubberneck."

"I’m so mad at these nosey people. Go ahead, I have no time limit, but you can be late to wherever you need to go."

10. Taking driving seriously by becoming aware of one’s mistakes and correcting them

"I’m an excellent driver, assertive and competent, with a clean accident record—just a few tickets here and there."

"I monitor myself as a driver and keep a driving log of my mistakes. I think it’s important to include thoughts and feelings, not just the overt acts."



Driving is such a big problem in all societies and there haven’t been any quick solutions because the problems exist within each person.  The reason there are so many accidents, injuries and fatalities is due to the fact that people have the mindset of, “It’s not going to happen to me.” People know that speeding is wrong and that not flowing rules could result in accidents, but they don’t picture it really happening to them.  Everyone sees themselves as good drivers and blame others for problems on the road.  We have to be aware that we too make mistakes and that our driving affects others.  If we are in a hurry and decide to swerve in and out of lanes, that causes other drivers to slow down due to fear, which causes more back up because the cars behind also slow down.  Driving is a social act.  It involves everyone on the road. 


People need to be aware of their contributing to the problem and they need to want to fix their attitudes and driving behaviors before they can actually do anything about it.   Road rage has become a big problem in society causing car chasing, crashes, injuries, fatality, and so on.  Sometimes we aren’t even aware of our road rage behavior.  Something so simple as having passengers in your car can contribute to road rage.  When people get behind the wheel they turn into a different person.  Some people become more aggressive because they want to show their friends that they are good drivers and to most, a good driver is someone who gets you from point A to point B in the fastest time possible.  Others become aggressive because they feel protected by the strong or tough car they are in.  Some speak their mind because there is more room between them and another driver.


I agree with Dr. Leon James that we have to first acknowledge that we need to change our driving behaviors.  Then we must witness our actual behaviors while driving to determine what exactly we need to change first.  Finally we have to modify the behaviors we want to change and continue this process for the extent of our driving lives.  The steps sound simple, but it takes time, practice, and above all, wanting to change.  I think that this approach and others that deal with improving driving, not only the skills, but also the psychological mind change will be adopted.  It might take awhile, but already there have been attempts to change driving on all levels. 


Graduating licensing has been adopted in New Zealand and now other states have some type of graduating licensing due to the fact that it resulted in a decrease in injury and fatality among young drivers.  A graduating licensing system supervises young drivers in progressively more difficult monitoring experiences at a controlled pace.  Driver-Zed is also a new program on CD-ROM that focuses on teaching appropriate risk management.  It hopes to shift the focus from only safety knowledge and expand into the affective or emotional skills.  The Quality Driving Circles (QCD) are also being used by many people. They consist of voluntary groups of 2-10 people who meet at a regular basis to encourage positive driving behavior.  It might take time and more awareness of these programs, but there have already been improvements.



Question 6:

Analyze the Student Newsgroups Reports at to characterize the threefold self of the drivers that wrote the messages. Find 10 brief quotes from the messages they posted, and analyze each one, showing the character of their threefold self. Discuss the writer's philosophy or psychology of driving. Comment in the light of what you know from driving psychology in this course using the ideas and perspective from our two textbooks.

1. Traffic going home was backed up for miles. Must have been a bad accident. NOPE! There was a bit of dust blowing from a farmer's field across the road. NO, people were not blinded by the dust as visibly was just fine; they were just rubbernecking to see what was causing the dust.

This happens all the time.  We tend to think that when traffic is backed up its because there is a bad accident.  However, it usually is because people are rubbernecking to see a cop car pulled over or something that doesn’t concern us.  This person used sarcasm to reduce negative feelings.  This is learning to inhibit the impulse to criticize by developing a sense of driving humor.

2. It's a jungle out there. Well, not really: it's worse than a jungle. It's a stretch of roadway anywhere in America, and in place of the ravenous tigers and stampeding rhinos and slithery anacondas are your friends and neighbors and co-workers, that nice lady from the church choir and the cheerful kid who bags your food at the local Winn Dixie--even Mom and Dad and Buddy and Sis. They're in a hurry. And you're in their way. So step on it! That light is not going to get any greener! Move it or park it! Tarzan had it easy. Tarzan didn't have to drive to work.

This person has put the driving of society into a quote!  People act like crazy wild animals on the road.  It doesn’t matter who you are, you have at one time or another contributed to road rage.  People always seem to be in a hurry and blame others when they don’t get to their destination on desired time instead of focusing on self.

3. Getting there was the only thing that was important. If I met you in person, I might invite you for coffee or something. But on the road, you were in my way."

This is similar to above; people change their personalities when they get behind the wheel.  This person was thinking only on him/herself instead of showing respect for others.  We don’t stop to consider that others also have lives and places to go.

4. So many miles, so little time.

This is the attitude that most people have.  We feel a need to speed and hurry so that we can get to our location in the fastest time possible.  When we don’t, we feel as if we have failed a mission. 

5. Bad attitudes breed bad attitudes.

We need to think more like this person.  This person has just mentioned indirectly how crashes occur.  When we get into a car with a bad attitude, we are going to stay in that mindset and drive with a bad attitude.  This person has realized that anger is something we choose. We have to change to positive thinking while we are driving because our attitude will affect everyone.  When drivers reason under negative emotions, they tend to misinterpret the intentions of other drivers.

6. I am a European Living in the USA, and have noticed that this is the only place in the world where assholes speed up when you try to pass them. What is the matter with these people?

Why is this person trying to pass others on the road anyways?  What’s the hurry?  This person is thinking of himself or herself, practicing negative models, blaming others and seeing the situation as individual competition.

7. "They just don't know how to drive!” "I am more skilled than most drivers, therefore I can get away with riskier maneuvers."

This is blaming others as well as being selfish.  Most people have this attitude that they are better drivers therefore can perform certain tricks or maneuvers.  This only causes traffic to slow down behind them and can lead to an accident.

8. If there's one thing worse than crawling along on a jam-packed Valley freeway at rush hour, it's watching the clown behind you drive inches from your back bumper before swerving to the shoulder to pass.

This shows anger, irritation, and fear.  This situation shows each part a three-fold self. This person is on the affective and cognitive level of their domain because they have thought about the situation and also display frustrated feelings, about the other drivers’ actions.  The other drivers’ actions would represent the sensorimotor self.

9. I'm not the only car on the road, so I make sure to be as courteous as allowed to other drivers. I don't tailgate, I let people in when they signal, I stay right unless passing, and don't impede other drivers. However, that courtesy ENDS when it is not extended back to me. I have been known to tap brakes when 'gated, box in some asshole who previously cut me off, told people they were idiots at stoplights after pulling off some astoundingly stupid move, etc, etc.

This person may be nice outside of the road, but on the road he would display hostile feelings (affective-self), biased thoughts (cognitive-self) and aggressive actions (sensorimotor-self).  When people feel attacked, they tend to act aggressively and have tendencies to retaliate.


10. "I like speed because speed is cool, therefore I have a right to push it to the limit when I feel like it."

This person is thinking only on himself and his wants, excluding the safety of others on the road.  He doesn’t realize how his negative thoughts and feelings may result in tragic outcomes that may hurt others.  Many people like the feeling they get when they speed.  They like the sensation, or get some satisfaction from beating the red light.  This person needs a personality makeover.


Question 7:

Our textbook Road Rage and Aggressive Driving has exercises in several chapters. Do the following four exercises: (a) Exercise on scenario analysis on p. 205; (b) Exercise on acting as-if on p.128; (c) Exercise on self-assessment on p. 134; and (d) Checklist of your road rage tendency on p. 40. What were your reactions to the exercises? Discuss how these exercises help you to become more aware of yourself as a driver. Do some of the exercises with another driver you know. How do they help you understand some principles of driving psychology?

I thought the exercises were fairly simple.  The hardest one was the one on page 205 where we had to come up with our own reasoning.  These exercises were very helpful in just realizing the things I don’t think of when I’m driving.  Being in this class makes me realize what others do right or wrong and how they should change their thinking, but it is hard to sometimes even recognize when your doing something or thinking something wrong.  I never really thought of the things I do while I drive and the consequences that may come with it.  I think the hardest thing for most people is to think of all the possible outcomes of a decision or thinking of how something could have been prevented by doing things a little different.  When I did some of these exercises with a friend, it made me realize that most people have the same attitudes and thoughts. 

We develop our driving attitudes from others, our parents, friends, society etc.  We learn skills and behaviors from day one and these same behaviors get reinforced everyday.  Driving is a life long process that needs to be modified and improved. 


Advise to Future Generations:

As I tell everyone who decides to be in this course, save your work! I can’t stress that enough.  You might feel that this class has a lot of work ahead and may be to demanding, but it’s not bad at all.  I even took this class twice, well different sections of course.  Yes there are assignments that are time consuming and that may require some research, but it doesn’t last for too long. Before you know it your done with your work.  I was overwhelmed at first, but I got through it when I started the assignments.  There is plenty of time to complete each task. The hardest part for me was learning the FTP software, but you can always find help in the labs.  You’ll be fine as long as you keep up with the schedule. 

This course is very helpful because it deals with topics that we are faced with everyday.  You will learn what triggers road rage and how to fix your own bad habits as a driver.   This class teaches you how to change your negative thinking to positive thinking.  Hopefully you’ll come out a better driver and a positive role model for others.


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