Kristy Kato Portrayals of Driving Behavior on TV

Report 1

Portrayals of Driving Behavior on TV

Table of Contents

An average individual watches television approximately six to seven hours a day. These long hours of television watching give children as well as adults a greater opportunity to find role models to identify with and even model after. Viewers are more likely to imitate or model a character who they like, admire or respect. Children are more likely than adults to imitate what they see on television, because they are na•ve and do not view and attend to their surroundings critically. Also, a lack of attention and interaction from their parents encourages and sometimes forces children to seek for role models outside of their parents. Television offers these children a wide range of role models that are conveniently available to them. This means that what these children watch on television greatly influences their beliefs, thoughts and behaviors. Driving behaviors are frequently portrayed on television and these behaviors are usually negative. I have found many negative driving behaviors in:

I obtained these examples over a two day period on Tuesday, July 15 and Thursday, July 17. In the beginning, I came across some difficulty in obtaining bad driving behaviors on the television. After about an hour of frantically flipping through the stations, I found my first example. To my relief, I began finding examples one after the other. All of the driving scenes that I came across portrayed atleast one negative driving behavior. I selected a variety of examples from different sources to show that negative driving behaviors are seen by a diverse group of television viewers. Whether these viewers are children watching cartoons or adults watching movies, these driving behaviors affect everyone.


Tiny Toon Adventures

On Thursday, July 17 at 6:40 p.m. on channel 30, I viewed a bad driving behavior on the cartoon "Tiny Toon Adventures". In this scene Buster Bunny is buying a brand new bicycle from a sly salesman. This bicycle drives itself and at the push of a button a gigantic balloon pops out of the bicycle and it begins to fly. This bicycle is also able to ride down the side of a building.

This cartoon portrays a bicycle as a toy, and a child watching this will ride a bicycle like a toy. This child will not consider the dangers of riding a bicycle, especially on the road. Cartoon writers must start taking responsibility for what they show children on television. What they show greatly influences a child's beliefs and behaviors. I realize that entertainment is the first priority or concern of the cartoon writers however, they must also make educating a child a priority also. I myself never learned to ride a bicycle until only about a year ago. I always thought that riding a bicycle was dangerous so my ignorance and fear prevented me from learning all of these years. I can't recall what caused me this fear in me but, I don't think it was due to what I viewed on the television. When I was younger, bicycles were portrayed the same way as they are portrayed today. Bicycles were portrayed as cool, fun and something that every child should have.


This cartoon scene may also influence the cognitive behavior of an adult. An adult may believe that riding a bicycle is just like riding a toy, so he may not give his child the special attention that he needs when riding a bicycle. A parent must take responsibility for teaching his child the rules and safety precautions of riding a bicycle, especially on the road. When I am driving on the street that I live on, I often see children, between the ages of five through twelve riding their bicycles without any parent supervision.

George of the Jungle

Another cartoon which showed a negative driving behavior was on channel 26, the Cartoon Network at 9:45 p.m. on Thursday, July 17. The cartoon was entitled "George of the Jungle. In this scene, there are three vehicles racing each other on a race track. There is an evil character who is using illegal tactics to win the race. Some examples are destroying the bridge so that the other vehicles crash to the ground below and destroying the opponent's tires by setting them on fire.

This cartoon will encourage children, especially adolescents to race each other to prove who's car is the fastest or to prove who is the better driver. Many adolescents today are racing each other on the highway and main roads without thinking about the dangerous consequences. Most cartoons and movie scenes don't show the disastrous effects of racing, so why should these adolescents have any concern about it? I think racing can be exciting, if done in a proper area, like a race track. At least at a track, the driver's aren't putting other innocent drivers in jeopardy. The racers also have to follow certain rules and meet certain requirements to ensure the safety of others and themselves. I believe that if these speed freaks do their racing at the race track, then they would have less of an urge to race on the roads or highway.


Nissan Quest Mini Van

There are also many commercials which portray negative driving behaviors. For example, on Thursday, July 17 at 9:30 p.m. on channel 7 I saw a Nissan Quest Mini Van commercial. This commercial begins with a baby sitting in the back seat of the van while his father is driving. This baby has a toy steering wheel in the back with him and suddenly he is steering and in total control of the van. The baby then drives directly to the toy store.

This commercial is telling children that if a baby is driving then they should be able to drive also. The commercial is also saying that driving requires absolutely no skill and training. The commercial is portraying the van like a toy and driving like a ride at Disneyland. The baby driving to the toy store reinforces the idea that the car is just a toy. I remember when I was a child, I used to look forward to taking a ride in my grandpa's car. He had a standard car and he used to let me shift the car into gear while he was driving. I thought this was so fun and exciting. I used to think that I was actually driving. I honestly thought that driving was so easy and that if given the chance, I would be able to drive in no time.

Sony Recorder Mini Disc

Another commercial I saw was on Thursday, July 17 at 5:33 p.m. on channel 63, the Comedy Channel was on the Sony recorder mini disc. In this commercial, a man is hitchhiking with a number of cars passing by. He first hitches a ride with a van filled with wild band members. His second ride is in a classic car driven by a blues singer and his third ride is in a convertible car with three beautiful women.

This commercial is portraying hitchhiking as safe and cool. A child watching this commercial may believe that hitchhikers and drivers giving hitchhikers a ride are harmless. When in reality, hitchhikers and the drivers picking up hitchhikers may be very dangerous and they may even cost a child his life. When I was a child, I remember seeing many movies with adolescents and adults hitching a ride with someone who they did not know. I was lucky that my parents always used to teach me and remind me about the dangers of hitchhiking and especially offering a ride to a hitchhiker. I believe that parents must take the responsibility for what their child watches on the television. The media may portray hitchhiking and hitchhikers as cool and harmless, but the parents much teach the child about the actual facts and dangers.

Goodyear Tires

At 5:50 p.m. on Thursday, July 17, on channel 32, I saw another negative driving behavior being portrayed on a Goodyear tire commercial. This commercial begins with a four-door sedan speeding down a wet and slippery road. A pick-up truck is then shown on a wet road speeding around corners. I suppose the manufacturer wanted to portray to the consumers how well their Goodyear tires can handle turns on wet roads. I realize that good tires benefit the consumers as good tires provide better traction which means increased safety. However, a commercial showing a car speeding around corners on wet roads may encourage a child to speed in rainy weather. After seeing this commercial, a child may believe that tires were made to be driven on wet roads, and this will encourage the child to practice this behavior.

I couple of years ago, I used to speed in rainy weather, because I didn't really believe that it was dangerous. I saw Formula-1 cars taking corners in the rain at about sixty to eighty miles an hour on slick tires, so I didn't see how driving sixty to seventy miles an hour on road tires could be dangerous. However, about a year ago, a friend of mine had gotten into a serious car accident while driving slightly below the speed limit in the rain. This accident resulted in the death of one of his passengers. This tragic accident has made me aware of the dangers of driving in the rain, even though speeding had not been a factor. I now drive slightly below the speed limit when driving in bad weather conditions.

Music Videos

John Mellancamp's "Wild Night"

On Tuesday, July 15 at 6:20 p.m. I viewed another bad driving behavior on VH1, a channel showcasing a variety of music videos. This particular video was entitled "Wild Night" by John Mellencamp. This video showed a female taxi driver displaying several reckless driving behaviors. First, she took her eyes off of the road for approximately three seconds to look in her rear view mirror at the passengers sitting in the back seat. She did this on at least four occasions. Second, she was not focusing her full attention on the road as she began tapping her hands on the steering wheel while dramatically singing along with the song on the radio. Also, the taxi driver was driving all night so she was yawning as the night progressed. Her alertness and attention span began to slowly diminish.

This video contained many bad driving habits that could influence a child's attitude toward driving. Taking one's eyes off of the road, not concentrating on the road and driving when one is tired are all examples of bad driving behaviors. From this video, a child may believe that driving does not need to be taken seriously. However, driving when one is tired is to be taken very seriously, because one's attention is not as sharp and one's reaction is not as quick. I sometimes drive when I am tired when I am going home from work or when I am driving to school in the morning in traffic. I know that I should not be driving, but I need to get to where I need to go at that particular time. I feel that I have no other options. It is either I drive home or to school tired or I rest or sleep in my car until I am rested and refreshed again. The first option seems like the most obvious choice, for I do not plan to sleep in my car in a parking lot at night when I could be sleeping at home.


The Dukes of Hazzard

On this same night at 6:00 p.m., I found another example of a bad driving behavior on channel 21 on the serial program "The Dukes of Hazzard". In this scene, Luke Duke was driving his red Charger in the county of Hazzard. He was driving off the path of the road, speeding around corners and jumping over rocks and ponds to escape from another car following him. In the following scene, Luke and his brother Beau exit the car through the side windows instead of using the car door.

This scene may make a child think that a car is just a toy that can be used for fun. This child may believe that driving on the road is just like driving a car in a video game with chases, unrealistic stunts and harmless crashes. I believe that this scene may encourage a child to take a car to it's limit without considering the dangerous consequences. I remember when I first got my driver's license at the age of fifteen. I thought that being able to drive made me so mature and adult-like that I wanted to show off my driving abilities to my other friends. At that age, I never seriously thought that driving could be dangerous, so I just drove anywhere, whenever I could. I believe that the driving behaviors I saw on the television especially in certain scenes of movies influenced my driving attitude in some way. I guess I wanted to be cool like the girl driving her Porsche or popular like the girl driving her friends all around town. The media made driving look so cool and like so much fun. I think if I saw more negative consequences for poor driving behaviors then I would have been more conscious of my own poor driving behaviors.


Nick of Time

I believe that the negative driving behaviors shown in the movies are the most dramatic and influential scenes for a child. For example on Tuesday, July 15 at 5:15 p.m. on channel 41, the movie "Nick of Time" displayed a very bad driving behavior. A thirty year old male taxi driver was driving on a busy and congested street. He took his eyes off of the road and completely turned his head toward the back seat for approximately five seconds. During this five seconds, a van cut into his lane and the taxi driver had to swerve his vehicle to avoid crashing into the van. The taxi driver was so upset thinking that the person driving the van had cut him off that he stuck his middle finger at the van as he drove by.

A child watching this particular scene may believe that it is all right if he takes his eyes off of the road to talk to his passenger. This child may think that the taxi driver did not crash when he took his eyes off of the road for a few seconds, so he also will not get hurt if he takes his eyes off of the road. A child may also believe from watching this scene that it is acceptable to express one's anger physically, to other drivers on the road. Upon getting his license, this child may yell or display offensive gestures when being cut off. I notice that I myself take my eyes off of the road for approximately two to three seconds when I am talking to the passenger sitting next to me or changing the station on the radio.

Adults may also be influenced by this particular scene by exposing them to the violent behavior that frequently occurs in the big cities, such as Los Angeles and New York City. They may be more motivated to express their anger offensively at the other drivers that have angered them.

Black Sheep

On Thursday, July 17 at 6:45 p.m., I turned to channel 38 which was showing an HBO feature presentation of the movie "Black Sheep". One particular scene showed a policeman in his mid twenties speeding around town in his police car for no particular reason. The scene later revealed that the policeman was running his car on NOS, or nitrous oxide. The police car was set up like a race car with a lowered body, a spoiler and a racing engine.

This scene will express to a child that if police officers do not obey the driving laws then the laws must not be very important. If a policeman can exceed the speed limit then everyone else should be able to exceed the speed limit once in a while. I notice that I get upset when I see a policeman speeding for no particular reason without the siren on. When I see this happening, I start to speed myself, because I am angered that law enforcement officers are not following the same rules that they expect the general public to follow.

Leaving Las Vegas

The worst portrayal of bad driving behavior I saw was on the movie "Leaving Las Vegas". In this movie, Nicholas Cage, the main actor is an alcoholic who loses his family and job because of his drinking problem. In one particular scene, he is drinking liquor while driving on a main highway in Las Vegas. There was at least three scenes that showed him drinking under the influence and on all occasions, he never once got caught.

This is a very dangerous scene to be showing to children and especially adults. Drinking and driving have become a very serious problem over the years. Each year, I hear of more and more fatal accidents due to alcohol. Many intoxicated drivers do not realize how impaired their senses and reactions become from alcohol. They believe that they are sober enough to drive the short five miles home. This type of scene, showing the character drinking and driving with no negative consequences will influence the adolescents' and adults' decisions to drink and drive themselves. They may believe that this character in the movie could drive after consuming a whole bottle of hard liquor, so they should be able to drive after consuming only a few cans of beer. I must confess that a few years ago, I used to drive after having a few drinks. I honestly thought that I was totally sober and that I could drive perfectly well. I was very lucky that I never got pulled over by a police officer or that I never got into an accident. Today, I can honestly say that I never drink and drive. If I know that I have to drive home I will not even have a single drink.

I found many examples of negative driving behavior in cartoons, car commercials, other commercials, music videos, television series and movies within only a two day period. I'm sure that I could have found a lot more examples within a week period. I actually never was aware of all of the bad driving behaviors being portrayed on the television today until doing this report. The online public will also now become aware of this problem as they begin to read theses reports on portrayals of driving behavior on the television. Future generations should think of a way to relay this information to the outside public. Maybe distributing their reports to elementary schools and encouraging the teachers to relay this information to the parents and children may make them more aware of this problem. Also the future generations should also look at the portrayals of driving behavior being shown in movie theaters, for many children are being influenced by what they see in movie theaters also.

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