My Report 1 on:
Being a Driving Buddy-What It's Like
Chris Murakami, G6

Table of Contents

Societal Costs of Traffic Crashes

In the United States, there are an estimated 180 million individuals who drive motor vehicles. Some of these individuals will be involved in the 5 million car crashes that occur every year. Still other individuals will become apart of the 40,000 lives that our roadways claim each year. Any loss of life is a tragedy, but especially when it occurs in such a callous and preventible manner.

Human fatalities are not the only cost that traffic crashes produce. The social cost incurred by motor vehicle crashes in medical expenses and lost productivity is in excess of 150 billion dollars each year. These statistics are staggering when we consider that we ourselves or our loved ones are placed in a potentially hazardous situation everytime we drive to work, go to school, or travel from place to place.

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Aggressive Drivers

An already dangerous traffic situation maybe made potentially more so due to the presence of an aggressive driver. The aggressive driver is possibly a product of the current state of the world we live in. There are deadlines to reach, places to get to, people to see. Time if of the essence. These drivers feel that the faster they get to where they drive to their destination, the better off they will be for whatever reason.

Intervention is often necessary in the case of the aggressive driver. However, The aggressive style of driving is not the manifestation of some type of physical malady with which one can take a pill. Aggressive drivers are individuals whose road behavior is dictated by what they are feeling and thinking in regards to the stimuli that the driving experience presents. It is this driving individual who must be appealed to in an effort to prevent an expression of highway hostility. There is little we can do about the weather conditions on the roadways or the bulk of traffic at peak hours in the daytime. These things will occur at one time or another. Let us emphasize the only element that we truly can exercise control over, ourselves. This is where the treatment must start.

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Driving Buddy

The implementation of a Driving Buddy may help that driver come to terms with his aggressive driving behavior. A Driving Buddy can be defined as an individual riding as a passenger who provides the driver with a critique of his driving skills. An important aspect of this critique is that the driver considers the passenger's opinion as important as their own. This is to differentiate from the other type of driving critic who is know as a back-seat driver. The difference between the two being that although both offer driving critiques, the critiques of the back-seat driver's are not valued as much and often fall on deaf ears.

At the present time, no other information pertaining to the term Driving Buddy was available for browsing. A brief description of a Driving Huddle-Buddy is given in Dr. Driving's report descriptions page. However, besides that page, this page appears to be one of the first to experimentally explore the concept.

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Driving Personality Makeover

Another technique that we will use will be the Driving Personality Makeover. A Driving Personality Makeover can be defined as the process of positively restructuring one's current Cognitive, Affective, and Sensorimotor processes as it pertains to the driving environment. These three domains of driving behavior need to be attended to individually in order to achieve a behavior modification. The individual involved in the makeover performs this introspection and finds behaviors that are decided as necessary to be "made over." These behaviors are then modified in accordance to their specific domains. Other psychological principles and techniques can be applied in facilitating this change (e.g. self-witnessing). It is important to know that the Driving Personality Makeover is a life long process which will require continual attention and reinforcement.

In this experiment, these traffic psychology principles, as well as others, will be implemented in an effort to modify certain behaviors.

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Subject History - Larry Bruno

A limited subject personal background is provided, which considers a request for anonymity.
The subject in this study shall be refered to as Larry Bruno. He is a college student approximately 23 years of age. He has been driving for a period of 7 years since receiving a driver's license at age 16. Mr. Bruno is daily put into situations in which he is placed on the freeway driving at peak traffic hours. He has never received any traffic citations or been involved in any motor vehicle accidents as a driver or passenger. He considers himself a exemplary driver based on his flawless driving record and in comparison to "other drivers."

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The length of this study was a period of two days. On these days, Mr. Bruno would agree to do the following: Day 1: the driver will perform the usual way and the Driving Buddy will make comments as a passenger on all of his observations. Day 2: the driver will drive the way the Driving Buddy decides for the duration of the trip. The events of these two days would be observed and data collected to see any changes between the sessions.

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Session I

The first session was done on a Saturday morning at approximately 9:00am. The weather conditions were ideal for driving. The Sun was out with no showers projected to occur throughout the day. The roads were dry for we had been having a recent period of good weather after several previous days of showers. Traffic was suprisingly this as we set off for the drive.

  • The Rolling Stop
  • My first observation was that Mr. Bruno would fail to come to a complete stop at a stop sign if he perceived the lane he would be turning into was clear. He would roll past the white painted stop line, and make a fast glance in both directions to check for incoming traffic. If his quick assessment was favorable he would then accelerate quickly while making the turn.

  • The Four-Way Stop
  • We then headed to the freeway on ramp. Prior to reaching this destination there was a four way stop that we had to get past before proceeding on. At this location Larry did come to a complete stop at the stop line. He waited for his turn to make his move into the intersection. Chronologically, he was scheduled to go next but the motorist to his left forced his way into the intersection. Mr. Bruno immediately became incensed by this act and tail gated the car on to the freeway. In turn, the driver being tail gated kept looking back at us through the rear view mirror constantly, obviously afraid of a collision.

    The driver in front would switch lanes to try and get away. In reaction, Mr. Bruno would follow, shadowing the other driver's moves like a hawk, cussing all the while. After about 5 minutes, when Larry had gotten most of the anger out of his system, he changed lanes and pulled up to the side of the other driver, rolled down his window (so the other person would hear) and swore at him, glaring at him the whole time before speeding quickly in front and past the other car. Several minutes later, Mr. Bruno was still raving "I hate it when i get cut off! I came to a complete stop before that guy!"

  • The Merge
  • Further on, the traffic started moving at a snail's pace. The sun was making everything worse since Mr. Bruno's car had no air conditioning and no wind was blowing. He seemed as if he were very uncomfortable and was squirming in his seat. I asked him how he was feeling. He confessed that he was beginning to feel agitated because we were currently in a lane in which other cars were merging into by speeding past us on the adjoining lane. Larry said that he wasn't going to let anyone in because they would slow us down even more. He refered to these other cars that were moving past us to merge up ahead "cheaters" and he was livid that they were not "waiting they're turn in line like the rest of us."

    Mr. Bruno sited a driver up ahead who was aggravating him because of the amount of space he left between his car and the one in front. He claimed that 3 cars had merged in front already. Larry then proceeded to tail gate the car in front to insure no other lane jumpers would be have the opportunity to fit through.

    As we were nearing the point of the merge, one car in the adjoining lane refused to slow up and merge behind our car. This car then proceeded to turn in to the lane Mr. Bruno was in. Larry would have to slow up and acquiese to the agressive motorist or risk hitting the side of the merging car. Mr. Bruno reluctantly slowed up and narrowly escaped denting the other car. Larry's driving seemed to become more aggressive after this incident as he proceeded to tail-gated the motorist. Although the motorist had left the freeway at the next off ramp; Mr. Bruno, still angered by the merge incident, continued to speed and tail gate other cars who were in his path.

  • The Rubber-Neckers
  • The next incident served to compound Mr. Bruno's anger. As the flow of traffic traveled ahead the scene of the traffic slow down was revealed. There were 2 motorists who had pulled off to the side following an accident which appeared to be minor. Though they had steered their cars to the side of the freeway, traffic still went slow because other drivers were "rubber-necking" or "gawking" at this scene. Once Mr. Bruno had passed by this scene, the traffic picked up to a regular (est. 55mph) speed. Larry cursed under his breath and he muttered something about people not being able to "mind they're own business" and "keep your eyes on the road." Obviously agitated, Mr. Bruno then proceeded to accelerate to a speed 15 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. He replied that he had to vent off some steam. Larry said he often "vented" through driving fast after leaving a tough day at school.

    When asked why he didn't allow ample space once the other driver's intentions were known, Mr. Bruno responded "That guy was cheating by cutting in front of the rest of us. I didn't want him to get by me!" It was as if Mr. Bruno fed off the aggressiveness of this other driver in provoking a hostile response by himself. (see Passive-Aggressive Drivers)

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    Session II - Mr. Larry Bruno

    Initially, Larry seemed to be reluctant to follow the driving suggestions that were given. He would question some requests and put up resistance to complying until i had pain-stakingly supported my assertion. For instance, I felt that the car distance he was keeping was too close (e.g. 1 car length for every 10 miles per hour). The driver in front kept glancing into her rear view mirror to check our the distance. Once told, Larry created a greater distance (1 car length) between the two cars. However, Mr. Bruno still defended the previous distance saying he had ample room to brake.

    Once we reached the freeway, Larry, again had to be reminded of keeping an ample distance with the other car in front. Also, he later began to accelerate past the posted speed limit. I suggested that he slow down to the posted speed limit, which he slowly did. I commented to him that we should take our time today. Larry responded, "Those other drivers were driving so slow. They don't realize that they are creating a hazard too. Its not only those who speed who endanger others." I somewhat had to agree with him on his reasoning to some degree. It often seems to be the case that many accidents do occur on behalf of speeding. However, it would be interesting to know how many accidents or potential traffic slow downs occur due to drivers driving too slow, below the minimum speed limit.

  • Passive-Aggressive Drivers
  • Larry fits the description of a Passive-Aggressive Driver. A Passive-Aggressive Driver is a motorist who in normal traffic conditions drives without incident. However, when another driver somehow does something that angers or incites, the Passive-Aggressive Driver's aggressive tendencies are released. There was evidence of this in the The Merge and Four-Way Stop incidents. In both of these two cases, Larry was spurred on to aggression through the preceeding events initiated by other aggressive motorists.

  • Automatic Driving Self
  • Mr. Bruno seems to have a problem with modifying his aggressive driving driving style. We had discussed this problem which he is beginning to acknowledge slowly. Often, it seems as if Larry is not really aware of the way he is driving and the dangers it presents. Larry's problem appears to be due to the presence of an Automatic Driving Self. The Automatic Driving Self can be defined as a normal driving style, preferenced by the individual which occurs, automatically, when driving or in contextual situations presented while driving.

    Larry admits that he often drives the way he does because five days of the week he is set in traffic situations where there is a lot of congestion, and he has to reach a certain area in a given amount of time. He claims that at times he just feels a need to drive that way out of habit. Mr. Bruno admits that he learned how to drive the way he currently does by watching the other drivers and when riding with friends. He noticed how much faster they "seemed" to get through traffic. Larry felt that this change to an aggressive driving style was necessary for him. It would help him to get to where he was going faster. Larry used modeling techniques to change his old style of driving, by patterening his new style after the other aggressive drivers that he had encountered or rode with. His desensitization to this type of aggressive driving style could have occurred after the many years that Larry has been exposed. This desensitization refers to Larry habituating to the aggressive driving stimuli and behaviors.

  • Self-Witnessing
  • The best way to remedy an Automatic Driving Self is through a technique known as Self-Witnessing. Self-Witnessing is a type of treatment technique in which the subjects will make an attempt to become more self conscious of their own actions, thoughts, and feelings during certain situations (e.g. driving). The data collected will then be used by the individual to help recognize "problem areas" and restructure current cognitive processes which are detrimental.

    Behavior Modification

    After the end of the second driving session, Larry said he would be open to suggestions to improve his driving techniques. Mr. Bruno said he began to see the dangers that he presented to himself and others by his current aggressive driving style. He felt that he would one day be the victim of a car crash if he did not change his ways.

    I suggested to Larry that he try this Self-Witnessing technique. Once done, the data produced from Self-Witnessing accounts combined with the comments given by a Driving Buddy could be used to provide a list of Driving Behaviors that may need changing. Then through the Driving Personality Makeover Larry can attempt to change his driving behavior, continually using Self-Witnessing to chart his progress.

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    Recommendations for Future Generations

    Future generations of traffic psychology students conducting this Driving Buddy experiment should focus on presenting various explanations in rationalizing their suggestions to their drivers. Most drivers have a bias toward their own driving techniques as being correct; and in turn attributing bad driving habits to OTHER motorists. However, with sensitive reasoning a driver may eventually be persuaded to abandon his/her bad driving habits.

    It is also important to stress that the researcher try to be objective in interpreting the driving behavior deemed bad. It does not matter how carefully an individual may try to be objective in his interpretations. An individual is, after all, an individual. Everyone is different and so are the observations that are given in reference to the judgement of that person. In other words, error is inherent since the data that will be collected is subject to speculation. Students must endeavour to provide the most precise data available by looking at such things as the speedometer readings in reference to traffic flow and posted speed limit. After all, science demands hard data to confirm hypothesis. The more measurable data we can get the better the validity of the experiments.

    I would encourage others to "adopt" an aggressive driver. It could be a parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker. Make yourself available to become their Driving Buddy. Present yourself as a resource. Offer some suggestions. Question their methods. Challenge their thinking. Try and create discussions to thoroughly examine topics and facilitate that driver's self awareness. If you can successfully change the driving behavior of any one person through the methods depicted above, that will make the road a safe place for all of us.

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