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Driving Psychology:Theory and Application

By:Sarah E. Phillips

Instructions for report




This course is designed to give students a broad understanding of the many aspects of driving and introduce them to the topic of driving psychology.By learning how to apply driving psychology to driving students will be able to identify and understand driving around them better.


To be in generation 20 of this course it is interesting to see how others have developed and changed and know that I will as well.I take pride in knowing that I can have an impact on understanding driving psychology and also spread what is already known.Students before me have published web pages with their findings and studies showing the aspects they liked which I look forward to being able to contribute as well.They tended to appreciate their fellow classmates insights and through their interactions were able to better understand themselves and others.The following are some of past students work that relate to driving psychology.

This studentís webpage is interesting because it has a variety of different students opinions and definitions of what driving psychology is.It gives many different definitions which allows the reader to think about the different aspects of driving psychology.

This studentís webpage deals with newsgroups for drivers and how they help to deal with negative emotions and actions and how to find support.

This studentís webpage deals with QDC groups and her reaction to the exercises she performed.It is an interesting take from a students perspective.




The topic of this course is driving psychology.It deals with the emotional and mental processes that influence our driving and the way we see other drivers.Through taking this course the purpose is to understand the processes that underlie the way we, and other drivers, react to the situations we encounter on the road.It is to help us understand why we react the way we do.This course is also designed to allow us to recognize what is wrong and how to approach areas of driving that other drivers may not be aware of.It allows us to recognize, and modify our own driving skills that are not up to par.


This topic involves me because every day I drive about 60 miles and I see some of the most senseless driving acts everyday.It has also become an issue in my own family lately regarding the way my father and brother drive.It is meaningful to me because it concerns me when I see the way others drive and I know that often these acts are thoughtless and reckless and it endangers thousands of people on the road, myself included.


By getting involved in this course I expect to learn the reasoning and influences behind the various aspects of driving and I expect to know what can be done to improve driving on the road.I expect that I will have a lot revealed to me in how I drive and what I should do differently.I also know that I will be able to understand driving better in todayís society and be able to act and react accordingly.





The Driverís Threefold Self


The Drivers Threefold Self includes the affective, cognitive and sensorimotor.The affective refers to the individuals feelings and motivations, affective deals with the fact that our actions, thoughts and feelings have a purpose and serve a function of getting us to our goal state.The cognitive aspect of the threefold self is the thinking and reasoning and decision-making skills.The sensorimotor aspect is the sensations (see, taste, touch, etc.), perceptions and motor movements we make.These three aspects all interact with one another and forms our driving persona and philosophy.We learn these different aspects growing up as we are exposed to the actions of those that drive us.We come to adopt our driversí attitudes as our own and display them while we drive.



Self-Witnessing Methodology


Self-Witnessing involves acknowledging, witnessing and modifying our own driving skills.It is a way to actively look at the way you drive and notice what you do poorly, what needs to end, change and improve upon.It is a three-step program for improving oneís driving skills.


Acknowledging is the main step; it is admitting that as a driver there are areas that need to be worked on.It is considered the hardest step because it is the realization that there is something that is not perfect and that needs to change.An example would be that a person constantly runs stop signs.The person admitting that they run stop signs and that it is a bad habit is the acknowledgement.


Witnessing is the step where the person actively looks at his/her actions.By doing this, the person is looking for and acknowledging times when he/she does the offense that they are trying to correct.For example, our person who runs stop signs has just passed through another sign without so much as slowing down.The person has just witnessed him/herself committing the offense and acknowledges it.


During the modifying stage one takes active steps in trying to control their behavior so that they conform to the rules they admit should govern the action.Our example would involve our subject actually stopping at each stop sign he/she encounters.By actively making oneself stop at the sign they are modifying their behavior.



Road Rage


Road rage is a learned habit that involves negative reactions one has while driving.These reactions involve obscene language, gestures, retaliation through using the car as a weapon, and using the car as a weapon.It is taking anger out through multiple outputs on another driver.Road rage is learned from the time we are young through others who are driving us.As passengers we learn the way to drive, everything we encounter is how we learn, and later drive.Road rage is an aspect of this learning.If our parents drive recklessly we are likely to drive recklessly as well.If our parents curse other cars, we are likely to curse other cars.It is through this mode that we become the drivers our parents are, we see and experience it multiple times we come to accept it as ok and then drive and behave the way they do.


Road rage occurs when a driver interprets an action by another as rude, thoughtless or aggressive.The driver then reacts to the action with hostility through verbal/visual obscenities, aggressive driving or even physical assault.The driver feels that he is warranted to react in such a way as to teach a lesson to the other driver and prevent him/her from doing his/her careless actions again.



Aggressive Driving Legislation


Aggressive driving legislation deals with how states define aggressive driving and how it is dealt with.There is an increase of interest of making drivers responsible for their actions and making legislation is a way that ††††††††† law makers hope to curb road rage and aggression on the road.A problem that is constantly faced in making and promoting laws is that they are often vague and are seen as nearly impossible to implement and enforce.The best way to pass laws and see that they are enforced without much possibility of contestation is to make them as specific as possible.For more information see the following:



The Driverís Emotional Intelligence


The driverís emotional intelligence refers to the driverís ability to remain calm and inhibit the anger that can lead to aggressiveness and venting.Drs Diane Nahl and James Leon claims the best way to avoid aggressiveness that stems from anger is to let the ďexcitatory endangerment response dissipateĒ (112).By allowing the anger to dissipate a driver can avoid the harsh and brash desire for action to pass and keeping them from acting without good judgment.It involves lots of self-control in anger management.Two aspects of anger management the Dr James recommends is 1. relaxation techniques and 2. mental reappraisal of the situation.By adopting relaxation techniques it allows oneself to takes time before reacting irrationally.A person can stop before reacting and allow time to reappraise the situation.


During reappraisal the driver can think of multiple causes for the action, which angered him/her and realize that it was probably not intentional.When the driver stops to think of this there is much less chance that they should decide to retaliate and as such we have less aggression and road rage shown.During reappraisal the driver is giving her/himself time to organize their thoughts and restructure the thoughts already formed into a more coherent, manageable and thought out cause of events and reactions.By thinking instead of automatically reacting the driver is able to think of cause and effects and what is the most logical reaction.



The Diverís Emotional Spin Cycle


The emotional spin cycle refers to the idea that our emotions are a daily cycle that are learned from childhood and are habit.It states that we have four possible options choose from; we can be positive about the world (1) or negative (2) and/or we can be positive about ourselves (3) or negative (4). To see a diagram and to read more about the emotional spin cycle visit:


In his diagram, Dr Leon James says we use the bridges to help us cross from negative states into positive ones.In the negative/pessimistic options we are using emotionally impaired thinking that affects us and doesnít allow us to think rationally or allow us to think outside of the situation.When we do not use rational thinking it affects our mood negatively, but when we do use rational and positive thinking we are not easily swayed into attaining negative feelings.



Newsgroups for Drivers


Newsgroups are places commonly found on the web where people with similar interests can get together and talk about their experiences and share or get advice.They are gaining in popularity every year on the Internet where a person can find a newsgroup for any topic under the sun.This relates to driving psychology because drivers would be able to gather and discuss their various experiences with one another.By sharing their experiences it allows the participants to gain experience and advice from other drivers that they can apply to their own life to aid in improving driving their abilities. It is a way that people can remain anonymous but still express themselves and seek help should they need it without fear because they can remain anonymous in the newsgroups.



Lifelong Driver Education


Lifelong driver education is an idea that drivers should be taught from an early age ways to manage themselves and their reactions so that when they do become drivers they are prepared for the affective, cognitive and sensorimotor events that accompany it.Not only would driver education start early but also it would continue throughout life.The continuation of education would serve to reaffirm positive, supportive driving skills.By having driver education throughout life the driver would constantly be reinforced and more likely to continue their positive driving skills.



Passive-Aggressive Road Rage


Passive-aggressive road rage deals is a reactionary protest.We protest when we feel we have been wronged on the road and then hold resentment towards other drivers.In their book Road Rage and Aggressive Driving, Drs Leon James and Diane Nahl say that passive-aggressiveness is ďexpressed by ignoring others or by refusing to respond appropriatelyĒ (85).The purpose is to be an obstruction and oppositional to other drivers.They often anger other drivers by driving slow in the fast lane and ignoring prompts to get out of the way.Passive-aggressive drivers often do this to assert their ownership over space and time.Drivers like to be in control and knowing that another may want your space can lead some to become blatantly powerful over the space they are occupying.



Left-Lane Bandit


A left-lane bandit is like the passive-aggressive driver who likes to maintain control over space.They are defined by Drs James and Nahl as ďmotivated by contrariness, stubbornness and even the perverse enjoyment of dominating othersĒ (86).They are the drivers in the fast lane driving slower than the speed of traffic, obstructing other drivers, because they arenít legally required to move over.This can cause other drivers to become angry which runs the risk of road rage.





I feel that my driving is reflective of my personality, I am a calm person and I like things to be without stress and with common courtesy, but at the same time I also can react when pushed too far. I try to be thoughtful of other drivers when on the road by avoiding tailgating and cutting off others.I do speed but I try to keep it at about the same rate as other drivers, never excessively over.


While I think that my personality and demeanor has determined my driving style a lot I also know that there are other influences that factor into it.I do know that my parentís style has affected me.I am much like my father and so when driving in his presence I am comfortable with the stereo playing and driving faster than other drivers.I have never felt inhibited by my fatherís presence in the car.My mother on the other hand is the exact opposite.While driving with her I take extra precautions to use my blinker appropriately, put both hands on the steering wheel and never going more than 5 miles over the speeding limit.I do this even though I know that she will find something to comment on whether it is something I do or what I should have done differently, it always leads into my mother threatening to take my car away and never letting me drive again.So I do know that my parentís presence in the car affects the way I drive, and I know that I learned this from a young age the way that they drove with me in the car.


The role of the media is a source that I donít believe has truly affected my driving very much.I donít feel that I am heavily influence by the media because, for example, after watching a race car movie I feel no need to drive like the drivers in the movie did.One instance I can say it may influence my thinking is after watching commercials for cars I have often thought it would be neat to go mudding like they do with the four-wheel drive trucks or speeding through the desert with the dirt flying behind me as in the sports car commercials.Other than that I feel no big media influence on my driving.


Peers are another influence that hasnít much effect on me.Many of my friends donít have cars so they cannot drive unless I let them drive mine, then they are on their best behavior (I turn into my mother for them).As a teenager I really wanted to drive the exact opposite of my friends.After driving with many of them I was scared to approach another ride with them after driving at 80 on the freeway, tailing other cars and weaving in and out of lanes.I had a friend who even after driving with her multiple times and telling her to slow down she never would, even when I stated facts about teenage accidents and how she is not as invincible as she may think.I was absolutely terrified to drive with her-- I still am except now it is her talking on the cell phone while speeding and lane hopping.


My current style of driving philosophy is to get to where I am going in however long it takes me but to avoid getting stuck behind, beside or in front of other crazy drivers.I avoid city driving as much as possible because the traffic and lack of respect often make me want to rip my hair out.And I also try to use the golden rule when driving, treating others the way Iíd like to be treated.I like to consider myself as a safe driver because I use my blinker, drive with the flow and try to be considerate of other drivers by letting them into my lane and not tailgating.





This activity helped me to take a closer look at myself and the way I perceive driving.By reading all the definitions I was able to recognize qualities that I hold which contribute to my driving style.I was also better able to grasp the idea of Driving Psychology and how it can be applied to the driving population.I was able to better understand some processes that occur on the road as well as how to better handle incidents that cause me stress and frustration.This is useful because it helps to know ways of dealing rather than just stewing in frustration.It is an active approach to making a situation better.I do think that if this approach is taken into classrooms, homes and DMVs there is a great possibility for it to improve driving.By understanding what happens to oneself and to others we can think in broader terms than by just our own experience and views, we are able to think of others besides ourselves and act accordingly.



6.Future Generations


The greatest piece of advice that I can give to other students taking this course is to stay on top of the material.It can be hard to motivate yourself to do the work because all the work is up to you to complete on your own.But if you wait to the last minute your project will often end up not as good as it could have been.


Talking to your fellow classmates is also really helpful.Through talking to them you can learn whether or not you are on the same page as to if you are doing the work correctly, see who is having problems and release the tension that can be in an impersonal environment.


I myself have gotten a lot out of talking with my classmates.Itís helpful to know when Iím not the only one who doesnít understand something and itís even better when someone can help me out with whatever I donít understand.By talking in class time Iíve gotten a better understanding of where others are coming from through their own experiences.





Reference:Leon James and Diane Nahl (2000), Road Rage and Aggressive Driving (Prometheus Books: Amherst, NY)


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