template.htmlTEXTMSWD `J Report 1: Definitions of Traffic Psychology-How I Stack Up

Report 1: Definitions of Traffic Psychology
How I Stack Up

Lisa Among, G6

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Five Defintions of Traffic Psychology
  • Learning What the Problems are and How to Correct Them
  • A Different Way of Looking at Traffic
  • A Way to be Aware of What is Going on While Driving
  • A Way to Improve Driving: Acknowledge, Witness, Modify
  • A Way to Better Your Life
  • Experience as a Road User
  • Driver
  • Pedstrian
  • Passenger
  • Cyclist
  • The Future
  • Introduction

    I am doing this report for a Psychology 459 class at University of Hawaii at Manoa taught by Dr. James Leon (Dr. Driving). To see instructions, click here.What is Traffic Psychology ? A very basic description would be the study of a person while driving. Most people would not know exactly what it is, it is a relatively new term. However, recently it has become a popular topic because of the problems of road rage and an increasing desire to prevent road crashes. Dr. Driving has being doing many interviews on the topic. My definitions for Traffic Psychology will be coming from my interpretation of the generational curriculum. My main references are students reports from from other generations and Dr.James Leon's home page.

    Five Definitions of Traffic Psychology

    Learning What the Problems are and How to Correct Them

    My first definition of Traffic Psychology is that it is a way to learn facts about the problems with driving. Once the problems are identified a person can work on correcting them. Michelle Wong did a summary of Dr.Driving page of Problems and Solutions. It seems the biggest problem is that people refuse to accept the responsibility of their actions. It is just so much easier to blame someone else.

    It is a blow to your pride to say you did something wrong. It is not easy for most, it means you have to pay for what happens. It is kind of ironic, because you pay in some way anyway.

    A Different Way of Looking at Traffic

    Traffic Psychology also teaches you to look at traffic differently. One of the major realizations is that it is not just you in your car. It is you and whoever else is on the road with you. People tend to put shielders on and just concentrate on getting to their destination, instead of realizing what a social act driving is.

    I mean think about how many people you indirectly or directly interact with on ten minute drive. A hundred? It all depends on the time and the area. It is more people than you would interact with that are in the same room with you.(class notes)

    I think we get this singular attitude from watching TV and movies. Actors and people in commercials are frequently shown driving like maniacs as if they are the only ones on the road. While watching TV, we many times do not realize the impact it has on us. we are indirectly accepting these views, and if we identify with any of the characters there is a higher likelihood that will imitate them.

    Another possibility could be the single act of getting into your car. It is like a "magic box", your own world where you have the power. A place where you can be someone else or so it seems. My friend mentioned to me the other day that she was like this. I know her to be a very nice, considerate person, but she said that when she gets on the road she's crazy. She likes yelling at people, she says," It is a chance to let off some steam."

    This is what Dr. Driving calls "Jekyll and Hyde". It chapter one of his book on line. Unfortunately it is not accessible, there are four other great chapters.

    A Way to be Aware of What is Going on While Driving

    Traffic Psychology is also a way to heighten your awareness. It teaches you to be aware of yourself on three level: Affective(a), Cognitive(c), Sensorimotor(s). It is what Dr.Driving likes to call The Three Domains of Driving Behavior ". It is a technique in self-witnessing. A way to monitor the level of your "road rage". For example, What is your tendency to do if someone driving slow in front of you? A)Drive really close(s), B)swear them off in your head(c), C)get mad(a), and beep at them(s).

    If you picked any of the above you suffer from aggressive driving syndrome. It is O.K. though, many people suffer from this, and you've just taken your first step in recovering. You have acknowledged your problem.

    The next step is to self-witness yourself while driving. The easiest way to do this is tape all your feelings(a), thoughts(c), and actions(s). That is the easy part a small tape recorder will take care of this. The Hard part is getting comfortable with talking to the recorder. My suggestion is to pretend you are a sports commentator.

    Afterwards, take it home and listen to it and pick one thing to work on. This is called self-modification, Dr. Driving has suggested driving buddies or Quality Driving Circles(QDC).

    If you really want to make a self -modification try reading Gary Uno's Driving Personality makeover. If you're interested in what a driving buddy is like try readingChris Murikami's report.Finally if you would like to find out what QDC is, you could read my Report 2,Mary Aldana's QDC, or any one of Generation 5'ssecond reports are QDC experiences.

    A Way to Improve Driving: Acknowledge, Witness, Modify

    A true traffic psychologist must work on their driving until they have reached the optimum level. This means using Dr.Driving's Three Step Program. It is very similar to quitting smoking or changing any habit. In fact, it is easier there is no chemical addiction.

    I think this is a good program, but it leaves out an important step. There needs to be a desire to change. I know from experience that many times I would need either social encouragement or personal tragedy to want to change. Once there is a desire, there has to be a whole shift on values, or at least re-evaluation and commitment not to go against these values.

    For example, Do I value my life? yes. Do I value my passengers life? yes. If this is true, I must drive safely never sacrificing this for speed. I know that I answered "yes", to both of the above and I still speed at times. This is normal, don't give up, just realize you are speeding and slow down. If something is holding you back ask yourself what it is. It takes a re-evaluation of every action. Why I am doing this? For myself or someone else. Am I being considerate? What are the repercussions of my actions? Am I harming anyone? Evaluate your feelings, and talk to yourself, and realize that saving time is not worth risking your life and others. Also make a note to yourself that you will leave at least 10 minutes earlier next time.

    A Way to Better Your Life

    A mastery of The Three Step Program of driving is guaranteed to also improve your life. A reconstruction of all these values overflows into the other decisions you make in your life.

    If you are considerate while driving, you are more likely to be sensitive to others in other situations. It also suggests a likelihood of being cooperative. Cooperation is a key to happiness. Things are a lot easier when you work together.

    Experience as a Road User


    As a driver, I see reasons everyday for traffic psychology. Every time I'm on the road I see someone weaving in and out of traffic. If they only realized how much danger they are putting themselves and everyone around them in, they would do it anymore. I think it is really kind of stupid, I mean how much time are they really saving.


    I think the results of people practicing Traffic Psychology would be greatly appreciated by pedestrians. I know I would appreciate it, I am always scared of somebody going around the corner too fast and banging me.

    The other day I actually had a nice driver let me go even though I wasn't in a crosswalk. I think it is important for people to realize that when they are in a car that they are bigger and have more protection and should look out for the little people.


    Passengers would benefit from traffic Psychology. It make it easier for them express their feelings on how the other person driving with less fear of revolt. I know I've wanted to tell a couple people to slow down when driving, but I was afraid they would hold a grudge or make fun of me.


    As a Cyclist, I ride my mountain bike to school everyday. I like riding my bike because I get to exercise and I do not have to worry about parking. It is much easier to park my bike than my car. I only have two problems when riding my bike. They are worrying about someone driving to close to me or not seeing me when making a turn or coming out of a driveway.

    I think traffic psychology will help this, because if people are more aware of themselves and the people around them, they will be more cautious and I won't have to worry as much. My part as a cyclist is to take the extra time to make sure that they do see me, until there is a greater awareness of the bikes on the world. I think it is happening already, I have noticed that most people are considerate and cautious in driving around me and other cyclist.

    The Future

    Adults should get into this Program of Traffic psychology, so they can be role models. This is probably the greatest influence on children. Another thing in the future is teaching Driver's Education in Kindergarten.(notes) This will help prepare children to watch and act as a passenger and pedestrian. They could also create a group called Children Against Road Rage, which would be similar to something like Students Against Driving Drunk(SADD).Then later in High School they could join SADD and as a part of driver's education, they be signed up with a Quality Driving Circle.

    The future is safer streets and more caring people.

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