Report 1: Definitions of Traffic Psychology

By Dina Takahashi

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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Cherilyn Okazaki
  3. Ryan Mitsui
  4. Cheryl Andaya
  5. Kimberley Oshiro
  6. Shane Cobb-Adams
  7. Drivers
  8. Pedestrians
  9. Passengers
  10. Future


Traffic psychology is the term used to describe the process in which various methods are implemented in order to modify driving behavior. These methods include Self Witnessing and Quality Driving Circles. Realization of a driving disability is necessary in order to begin the modification process. Without this realization, the driver will proceed with the self-centered mindset. A person's driving behavior is influenced by the affective (feelings), cognitive (thoughts), and sensorimotor (actions) domains. Every action taken on the road is a combination of these three areas.

A good driver is one that understands the needs of other drivers. He/she drives defensively and is prepared for any situation that might occur. This is exhibited through use of the turn signals(sensorimotor), appropriate distancing, and awareness of their surroundings. They are also gracious and respond thankfully. This in turn makes the other drivers feel appreciated (affective).

On the other hand a bad driver is self-centered and aggressive. He/she believes that the other driver is always at fault. This driver thinks (cognitive) that all others are in the way and are the reason for his/her tardiness and accidents. They also feel(affective) that they are the king of the road and can do whatever they want, whenever they want. This type of behavior is seen through tailgating, cutting other drivers off, and speeding (sensorimotor). Witnessing this particular driver results in fear and anxiety(feelings).

Definitions From the Generational Curriculum

Cherilyn Okazaki

Cherilyn Okazaki believes that "Traffic Psychology is important for any individual. First, there must be some kind of realization of some kind of negative actions while driving. Then in order to make the negative action positive, you must study the actions as a whole- -meaning the cognitive, the affective and the sensorimotor parts. After the reason for the negative action is determined, then the next step would be attempting to change or modify the behavior."

This definition describes the importance of traffic psychology. It also emphasizes the necessity of realization in order for the whole process to be successful. If the driver does not see anything wrong with his/her driving then modification of the behavior would not occur. Cherilyn also explains the different aspects of the action including the cognitive, the affective, and the sensorimotor. The definition that is given is a thorough evaluation of traffic psychology. I agree with her explanation and I felt anxiety because of the fact that many drivers are not willing to realize their negative actions. Therefore without this realization, behavior modification would not occur. This cycle would continue without the driver knowing that he/she is wrong.

Ryan Mitsui

Ryan Mitsui says that the "main reason that traffic psychology is needed, to make people realize their driving personality, because we often fail to see the possible consequences of our actions and the harsh reality is that most car accidents are a result of the driver not the car." He says that drivers drive with the belief that they are good drivers because they are in control of the vehicle. They control the vehicle and it gives them power. Many times reckless driving is a result of anger and the loss of control. Ryan believes that if drivers would be able to control their anger, then they would better control the vehicle and thus be safer drivers.

Ryan's definition is the result of first hand experience of the devastation that could be avoided with traffic psychology. I do feel that many drive with the view that they need to be in control of the situation. Aggressive driving puts others at risk for serious casualties. I agree with his definition that we need traffic psychology in order to realize that we are the cause of many accidents, not the car. The car is controlled by the driver and should not be blamed. I felt relief that he, as a previous aggressive driver realizes the importance of traffic psychology. This further leads to behavior modification which makes the roads a safer place.

Cheryl Andaya

Cheryl Andaya states that "Through traffic psychology, we are able to see just what exactly angers us, why it angers us, how it affects our driving, and what we can do about it." This definition describes the correlation between anger and driving behavior. She was able to clearly and simply state what traffic psychology does and how it will help. With the help of traffic psychology we would know the origin of our driving behavior and then exhibit behavior modification.

With Cheryl's definition, it made me think of my own driving. I agree that if we are able to identify what makes us upset, then we would be able to avoid this feeling and behavior in the future. traffic psychology is necessary in order to become better drivers.

Kimberley Oshiro

Kimberley Oshiro believes that "traffic psychology is a way of instilling self-discipline, compassion, selflessness and kindness toward humankind. It is really a tool to bring about the teaching of basic moral principles and values; a basis for teaching etiquette, not just on the road, but for all other aspects of life as well." She doesn't view traffic psychology as improving only driving behavior, but also as helping us to become better people. Through traffic psychology we would be more understanding toward others and giving, in order to make others happy. This would be described as a broader positive outcome of behavior modification.

I agree with Kimberley's definition of traffic psychology and its effects on people. It was an aspect that I had not considered but it is true. As a result of traffic psychology we would be able to see things from other's point of view and understand what they are going through. This would make us better people and more capable of dealing with a variety of problems on a day to day basis. Therefore traffic psychology not only modifies our driving behavior, but our personality as well.

Shane Cobb-Adams

Shane Cobb-Adams feels that "Every one needs help because none of us is just quite perfect (especially when it comes to driving). Traffic psychology thus presents a door through which we can cognitively enter and modify our very essence and achieve a higher quality of living." He feels that traffic psychology is important because it deals with improving ourselves. With this information we can change certain aspects of our personality and become a better person/driver. This is necessary in order to peacefully live together as a society.

He is very accurate in his statement that we need traffic psychology to better our lives. We will be more prepared to deal with situations that may arise with the information provided. It was interesting that he views traffic psychology as a door to a better quality of life. It provides the necessary ingredients to deal with our particular personality.

Experience as a Road User


Traffic psychology is necessary in maintaining a balance between road users. The term road users include drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, etc. Each category of road users has a different aspect of the road. As a driver I have experienced many situations in which traffic psychology would have been beneficial. An example of this occurred while I was driving on the freeway one day. Driving behind a blue van, I observed another car cut in front of him. This second car caused the van to brake suddenly. Obviously upset the driver of the van began to tailgate the car in front. This led to a confrontation between the two drivers from each of their cars. The example given is a clear indication that traffic psychology would have avoided this confrontation.

When the car cut in front of him, the driver of the van felt scared that the driver would hit him and upset that traffic etiquette was not observed. This led to the thinking that he needed to retaliate the action. Therefore the driver began to tailgate the other driver. Traffic psychology would have helped the driver deal with the situation calmly. The effect would have been no retaliation on the part of the van driver. An alarming statistic is that "An average of 111 persons died each day in motor vehicle crashes in 1994 - one every 13 minutes." This shows the seriousness of the situation, and awareness is required with regards to driving. Many other frightening statistics could be seen on Dr. Driving's site regarding road rage.


Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users due to the fact that they have no protection from vehicles. Traffic psychology would greatly benefit this group of road users. While walking down the street one day I realized the importance of traffic psychology. I was waiting to cross the street at University Avenue. Then at the appropriate command I began to walk in the crosswalk. Suddenly a car trying to turn right neglected to wait for me to pass him, and began to turn. This scared me because I thought I would be hit. My reaction was to get out of the way. The driver continued to go oblivious to my presence and sped down the street.

Traffic psychology would help to make this driver aware of others around him: drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. Due to the vulnerability of pedestrians this makes traffic psychology even more important. This incident could have quickly escalated into a fatality. Another result of traffic psychology would be the judgment of the driver in evaluating the pedestrian and allowing him/her the right of way. "On average, a pedestrian is killed in a motor vehicle crash every 96 minutes".


As a passenger, another example occurred which exhibited the necessity of traffic psychology. I was riding with my friend who had just gotten her drivers license. She was very apprehensive about driving on the freeway and as a result tended to drive slower than the speed limit. The reaction of the other motorists was to speed past, glare at us, and cut in front. They obviously felt frustrated at the slow speed and thought critically of us. The drivers retaliated by glaring and cutting in front, in order to quickly arrive at their destination.

Traffic psychology would significantly help in this circumstance. It would lower the aggression in the other drivers. The drivers as a result of traffic psychology would be able to positively react to drivers going below the speed limit. It also would help my friend to effectively drive at the appropriate speed.

The Future

Future generations could improve on this activity with additional teaching and modeling. At a young age we should be teaching children the appropriate reactions in a traffic situation. This should include role playing and continuous interaction between the participants over a period of time. Another improvement on this activity could be achieved through modeling. Children are surrounded by negative role models concerning traffic situations. Instead of showing bad driving skills, we should emphasize positive skills and reactions. This would show children the appropriate ways to handle traffic problems.

My Exploration of the Generational Curriculum Labyrinth | My Home Page | My Report 1 on: Traffic Psychology | My Report 2 on: Quality Driving Circles | My Newsgroups Report | Our G6 Class Home Page | Dr. Leon James Home Page

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