PSY 409a Driving Psychology Generation 20


Report #1


Practical Applications in Driving Psychology: A Cultural Study by Ikue Fukushima


Instructions of this assignment:



1. Preface


When my boyfriend and I were driving back to our apartment one night, I saw a lady with her mother and dog jumping out into the road in front of our apartment.  My boyfriend could not see them because it was dark and almost hit them.  Luckily they were safe and not injured.  However, the lady was very furious about the situation and she screamed at him.  This is the dialogue that ensued.


"You almost hit us! How dare you drive like that!  I want to see your parents!" 

My boyfriend got mad by listening to this and talked back.


"Hey, I wasn't doing anything wrong! You were the one who was jay-walking."

His comment made her more furious and she started swearing.


"You shut up! You son of a bitch!"


She was very mad and even went to tell this to our apartment's security guard.  My boyfriend saw this and also rushed to the security guard to defend himself.  The lady and my boyfriend's argument went on for more than an hour in front of the security guard.  Finally, the security guard became tired and said,


"Hey, it has nothing to do with me. Why don't you guys go home and take a rest."


Although they were still mad at each other, we decided to go home for now.  The next day, the lady even called the police so the policeman came to our house.  However, my boyfriend did not have to pay any penalty because she was jaywalking.


The police even said,


"Look, I am just here because she wants me to be here, just sign this paper and I will go"


Today, millions of people end up fighting due to aggressive driving.  Some of them even die from this road rage.  According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety's 1997 studies, 290,000 Americans died from car accidents caused by road rage.


The course PSY 409 (The Driving Psychology) by Dr. Leon James analyzes these road rage accidents and examines the aggressive behaviors from multiple perspectives.  Over 20 semesters this course has carefully analyzed driving psychology and discussed many issues about driving behaviors.


For example, Brandi Ashby from Generation 7 writes about how to communication with other drivers on the road to help you make the right predictions.  For example, her suggestion is to always signaling and yielding instead of cutting people off.  This will result in supportive driving for everybody.   To improve your supportive driving attitude, Michelle Tran from generation 19 writes about the emotional spin cycle.

By making your view of the world and yourself positive, you can become a positive driver.   After you are competent in your attitude toward the driving, it is time to learn to drive safely actually on the road.  Dustin Telles writes about the "Driving Buddy" on her report.


 After reading some of the previous student's works, it is my turn, (generation 20) to improve on the knowledge built upon this course. By writing my report, I hope I can spread the importance of learning about Driving Psychology to others in society.   


2. Introduction


PSY 409 by Dr. Leon James studies about the psychology of driving behaviors.  In this class, we discuss how to be competent in three domains of driving behaviors, which are affective, cognitive, and sensorimotor behavior.  For example, Dr. James suggests using self-witnessing skills such as tape recorders and video cameras.  This course also examines how biological traits, socialization, and culture influence the motorist's driving behavior.


By studying all the aspects of driving psychology, I believe this course will serve the purpose of spreading the positive, respectful driving attitude in today's society.  Since disrespectful attitude toward driving in one's culture is the major cause of aggressive driving, changing this attitude is the important key to a safe, supportive driving society.  This is especially true in the United States, where most people use cars for transportation; therefore it is important to respect other drivers on the road.


Now that I am more aware of Driving Psychology skills, I can use these skills in the road test. (I failed the road test three times already!)  I also can learn to be more patient and supportive of drivers when I do get my driver's license.  Moreover, as a member of the driving psychology course, I can pass on my driving psychology knowledge to more people so they can improve their driving attitude.  


3. Definitions


I.  The Driver's Threefold Self


 When a motorist is driving a car, he is involved in three domains of driving behavior.  These three domains are derived from affective self, cognitive self, and sensorimotor self. 


The affective self is the driver's will.  It is the goal or motivation of the motorist.  For example, when he wants to change a lane, his motivation for changing lanes would be his affective self.


Secondly, the cognitive self is the driver's decision.  For example, if the motorist decides to signal before he moves to the next lane, it involves his cognitive self.  If the driver's cognitive self is weak, aggressive driving may occur because of the illogical decision-making. 


The sensorimotor self is your final action based on your affective and cognitive knowledge.  The literal act of moving to the next lane would be the driver's sensorimotor self.




II.  Self-witnessing Methodology


Self-witnessing methodology involves self-observing and self-monitoring while driving.  By being able to self-observe and self-monitor well, the driver can be more competent in his driving skills.  In order to do this, Self-Witnessing Methodology introduces drivers to a variety of ways to self-observe and self-monitor themselves.  The easiest way to monitor your driving is by articulating out loud your feelings.  In doing so, you can be more aware of what you are saying and detect your aggressive thinking.  Another way is by recording your voice to the tape recorder.  This way, you can bring it home, listen and evaluate your aggressive verbal expression.  Finally, you can monitor yourself by putting the recording camera in your car.  By observing your real self on T.V, you might realize the aggressive aspects of your driving behavior.


III.  Road Rage


Road Rage refers to any aggressive behavior that occurs behind the wheel.  Competing, yelling, swearing, and honking are all typical traits of road rage.  In order to understand road rage more specifically, I have divided it into three types: Verbal road rage, quiet road rage, and finally, the epic road rage. 


In verbal road rage, aggressive drivers express their aggressive feelings into words.  This includes swearing, yelling, gesturing, and insulting. 


In quiet road rage, drivers show their aggressive feeling by competing, complaining, rushing and resisting. 


Finally, in extreme case, epic road rage occurs.  In this stage, drivers cut off, block, fight and in the worst case, shoot other drivers and pedestrians. 




IV.  Aggressive Driving Legislation


Aggressive driving legislation refers to the state laws that try to stop people from engaging in aggressive driving behavior.  For the most part, these laws require a fine for aggressive driving behaviors.  For example, if a police officer finds a motorist not fastening his seatbelt, the motorist has to pay fines to the police officer.  In New York City, if a driver intentionally strikes a person or vehicle, he has to stay in prison for seven years and lose his driver's license.  Because of the aggressive driving legislation, the number of accidents caused by aggressive behaviors has reduced.  However, there are still many people who speed up or are involved in aggressive forms of driving when the law is not there to enforce them.



James, L & Nahl, D. (2000).  Road Rage and Aggressive Driving.  Prometheus Books


V.  The Driver's Emotional Intelligence


The driver's emotional intelligence refers to the level in which a motorist can drive logically patiently, and supportively.  There are three levels in a driver's emotional intelligence.  The first level is the oppositional driving level.   The second one is the defensive driving level and the last level is the supportive driving level.


In the oppositional driving level, the motorist's thinking is oppositional and negative.  There, the motorist blames other drivers whenever there is an unwanted incidence.  The motorist is also selfish and never sees himself or herself as a bad driver when mistakes are made.  He also has no sympathy toward other drivers.  This level is usually where most aggressive drivers are. 


In the defensive driving level, the motorist is more careful about the road condition and thinks about "what would happen if I do this?"   He becomes more mindful about the road condition and takes his passengers and other drivers into consideration.  However, the person in this level is still not immune to aggressive driving.  For example, the driver may end up speeding when he sees other cars speeding.  The defensive driver may buckle under driver's peer pressure.


In the supportive driving level, the motorist becomes competent in threefold behaviors, which are affective, cognitive, and sensorimotor self.  The motorist has good goals such as stopping at stop signs for two seconds because he wants to drive safely.  He makes good decision like signaling before he changes the lane for other drivers.  He also has very good driving skills.  He has more empathy toward other drivers so he will never get aggressive when other drivers cut him off.  Instead of yelling at them, he will think, "maybe the driver is late for something.  I better be extra careful for the driver." 



James, L & Nahl D. (2000).  Road Rage and Aggressive Driving. Prometheus Books.


VI. The Driver's Emotional Spin Cycle


1. Negative about others ==> 2. Positive about others


3. Negative about self     ==> 4. Positive about self


The driver's emotional spin cycle can be divided into four sections as shown in the figure above.  These four sections consist of 1 being negative about others and the world, 2, being positive about others and the world, 3 being negative about self, 4 being positive about self.  The first section (negative about others) shows a person who has negative views about other drivers on the road.  Because he is a negative person, his motivation will be negative (I do not want to stop for the pedestrian).  His negative affection will cause his cognitive self to be negative (let's just hit the pedestrian), resulting in epic road rage. (Sensorimotor self).  On the other hand, if you have positive views about others, you will have a positive feeling which causes you to think positive leading to positive, safe driving.


The results are the same if you have a negative view about yourself.  For example, if you have low confidence in your driving skill, you do not know what is the right decision, and will end up making driving errors.  On the other hand if you have a positive view and are confident about yourself, you will trust your judgment to make the right decisions.


These negative or positive aspects of yourself and others are caused by biological traits, socialization, and culture.  Depending on where you are from, your parents, and the different TVs and movies you watch, your views can change.  Since you cannot change your biological trait, it is important for society to have positive views toward driving psychology. 





VII.  Newsgroups for Drivers


In order to explain what newsgroup for drivers are, it is important to first introduce the meaning of newsgroups.  Newsgroups are where people discuss about whatever interests them.  For example, if you are interested in Elvis, you can go to a newsgroup where Elvis is the main discussion.  Similarly, newsgroups for drivers talk about anything that is related to driving including the cheapest gas station, driving skills, complains about aggressive drivers and other driving techniques.  Newsgroup are good because you can get immediate answers for your questions and can access a huge audience who may share or talk about similar problems.   It is also convenient because you do not have to mention who you are unless you want to.  In this environment you can be anonymous while feeling free to talk about your problems. 


VIII.  Lifelong Driver Education


Lifelong driver education refers to the society's active driving education approach that teaches people a variety of ages about appropriate driving behavior.  Since there are an increased numbers of accidents among teenagers, the federal government is putting an effort in the creation of the k-12 driving psychology curriculums from kindergarten. 


In kindergarten, children can learn about how to be competent in affective driving skills.  For example, the teacher can teach them to practice self-witnessing activities as passengers with parents in cars.  They can also teach children the appropriate attitude toward driving. 


In middle school, the students can learn how to be competent in their cognitive skills.  For example, the student in this level can practice how to have logical decision-making skills.  For example, drivers can learn what is the appropriate behavior when they see pedestrians walking on the red light.  Do you honk at them?  Do you stop immediately?  I feel it is important to teach kids from a young age to be competent in these cognitive skills of driving.


In high school, students can learn about sensorimotor skills.  In this level students can learn to act with appreciation and cooperation toward traffic law enforcement and education.


In addition to the k-12 driving psychology curriculum, adults should train through Quality Driving Circles (QDC), where two to ten professionals can meet up with the incompetent drivers.  In QDC, the drivers can get advice from these professionals to get self-improvement techniques so that they can keep on improving themselves. 



James, L & Nahl D. (2000).  Road Rage and Aggressive Driving. Prometheus Books.


IX.  Automatization of Driving Behavior


When you drive your car for the first time, your mind is fully concentrated on your driving.  Your mind is only thinking whether to press the pedal, when to turn the wheel and how to signal.  Because of this, you can barely communicate with other passengers.  A few months later, however, you do not have to wholly concentrate on your driving process while driving.  Instead, you can talk to your friends, think about your favorite musician and even put make-up while driving.  This process of your body getting used to driving without thinking is called Automatization of Driving. 


It seems that automatization of driving is good because you do not have to be stressed about your driving process anymore.  Instead of focusing when to press the brake, you can focus more on the road conditions.  However, relying too much on your automatic driving skills can be dangerous.  You can lose focus from important incidences on the road if you are talking too much with your friends.  You can sometimes pass on the red light when you are not focusing.  Because of this, it is important to balance the automatization of your body and your mind concentration. 




X.  Peer Pressure


Peer pressure in terms of driving psychology refers to the pressure that a driver gets from the way other motorists drive their cars.  For example, many people today do not actually wait three seconds at the stop sign when there is no car coming.  Because it is uncommon, you may feel embarrassed to actually stop at the stop sign for three seconds.  You may feel other cars are making fun of you.  Another example can be the driving attitude toward the speed limit in Hawaii.  It is hard to see motorists driving 25 mph on the road although 25 mph is the speed limit.  Most of the drivers are driving faster. Because of this, drivers may feel they need to go faster than the speed limit.  Because of this pressure, drivers will get upset or make fun of others who are obeying the rules of the road.  If everyone was following the speed limit, I think there will be fewer accidents; however, I do believe the speed limit of 25 mph is too slow in some places.



James, L & Nahl D. (2000).  Road Rage and Aggressive Driving. Prometheus Books.


4.  Autobiographical


Although I am writing a report about driving psychology and may seem competent in my driving skill, I actually do not have a driver's license.  In fact, my permit expired four months ago after I renewed my permit for three times.  In addition, I failed the road test for three times.  In the first road test, I forgot to fasten my seatbelt (I realized it after I got out of the parking lot.)  The second time, I forgot to stop at the stop sign because I thought no car was coming.  The third time, I did not know how to get out after I did my parallel parking.  I was afraid of hitting the car in front of me.  So I asked the examiner,


"How do you get out?"  Because I still didn't know how to get out, the examiner ended up driving my car. 


Now, you may guess what kind of a driver I am.  Although I am not competent in my driving skill, I personally believe that I am not an aggressive driver.  I do not swear or yell at other drivers.  In fact I am the one who gets yelled at.  I am the one who has to accept their anger and drive away passively. 


I think my parents played a role in driving the way I am now.  My father liked to speed on the highway.   When I was little in Japan, My father's car had a safety alerts whenever he drove faster than 100 km/hour (about 55mph).  Because of this, his car was always making sounds on the highway.  I was really scared to listen to this sound because I knew that the police might catch us; moreover, my father had a short temper.  For example, when younger drivers honked at my father's car, he got mad and chased after them.  At the red light, he stopped right next to a young man's car and kept staring at them by saying, "What's your problem, stupid kids!"  I was so scared and embarrassed about my father's behavior, so I hid in the bottom of his car. 


On the other hand, I really loved my mother's driving because she drives slowly and safely.  She also never got mad about other drivers.  She drove supportively and with empathy.  She said once, "Do not honk unless you really need to, because it scares all the drivers around you."  Even though she was a supportive driver, her sensorimotor driving skill was below average.  One time, she drove too close to the side when there was an on-coming car.  As a result, she hit the telephone pole on the side.  So I believe my driving behavior is coming from my mother.


Besides my parents, there is another person who influences the way I think about driving.  That person is my boyfriend.  To be quite honest, I truly believe he is the typical example of an aggressive driver.  He is a very nice, patient person when he is not driving.  However, his personality change once he gets into a car.  He swears at the slow pedestrians and drivers.  He always says,


"Shit! Hawaii's driver sucks!  If they go to L.A or New York, they will get shot!" 

He loves going on the yellow light.  He hates senior drivers. He loves taking U-turns in a place where he is not supposed to do.  Although he is the aggressive driver, I truly believe he has good driving skills.  For example he can park from the back between two cars in one try.  His parallel parking is awesome.  So I do want to park like him.  However, I never want to have a driving attitude like him. 


I also believe the media plays a role in creating my driving perception.  For example, when I watched the movie Fast and Furious I wanted to be a cool woman racer.  I wanted to get a car like them.  When I think about it, I hardly see movies with example of supportive drivers.  There are a commercial that talks about safe driving.  Unfortunately, their impact is too weak, compared to the impact of Hollywood movies with examples of aggressive driving behaviors like Matrix Revolutions, Mission Impossible, and Rush Hour.  One day, I would like to see the effects on drivers if the movie industry made a movie called Slow and Happy instead of Fast and Furious.  The movie can be about handsome cool racer guys driving safely, such as stopping at the stop sign for three seconds, yielding to their enemy and driving 25mph on the road.  


After my driving perception was influenced by my parents, boyfriend, and the media, my current driving philosophy is to drive supportively like my mother, park gracefully and quickly like my boyfriend, and get my driver's license by the end of this course. 


5.  Conclusion


After I did this assignment, I can identify my driving personality as a "supportive driver who is not good at driving yet."  After I studied about the threefold self I now know that I am competent in affective and cognitive behavior because I do have empathy toward other people.  I now know that I am weak at my sensorimotor behavior.  By knowing this, I just have to keep practicing my driving on the road.  I realize I do not have enough experience to talk about driving skills. 


I believe this approach to analyzing and examining your driving behavior from the psychological point of view will have a significant impact on the future of driving in our society. By teaching our society starting with the younger generations about driving psychology, each individual will grow to be a more responsible, supportive driver, who can have a positive driving attitude about the world and himself.  All this hopefully results in a safer driving society where car accidents will be virtually nonexistent. 


7.  Future Generation


For the future generation, I recommend them to get a driver's license before they take this class because if you don't, you will have a hard time relating it to this course (like me).   However, this class motivated me to take my driver's license again.


By taking this class, I have become more aware of vehicle accidents caused by aggressive road rage.  I will continue to think about how to be a responsible driver to prevent aggressive driving.  Moreover, I finally learned how to make a web page by myself, how to join the newsgroup, and improved my oral communication skills.  Most importantly, I became a critical thinker when writing my reports.  Overall, this course not only will improve your driving skills but also social skills.  Virtues like patients, communication, and self-awareness can be further examined through a class like this.


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