Report 1: Initial Self-Assessment as a Driver

My Search

After I went over several files from the Generation I traffic psychology class, I decided to report on tailgating, convoys, aggressive driving, speeding, and pedestrians. I started by research by opening Netscape and going to Dr. James' homepage. From there I selected the link to Psy 459 homepages for generation 1. This action brought about a link to the homepages of everyone in that class. I went down the list, looking at each student's report.

As I read through some the files, I recorded the addresses of the reports that caught my eye and covered one of my five subjects. Reading through the reports was a tedious task and I often found myself simply reading words that meant nothing. As a result, I had to read through part of them at least twice. I had trouble figuring out how everything was organized, until I discovered the topical index that some students made. Things became much easier, as I could simply go to the reports that cover my chosen topics. Some of the students also had links to other reports related to the topic.

The Issue of Tailgating

In the first report I chose, T. Crawford felt that there is definitely a moral issue involved in tailgating. He felt it is an infringement on the tailgatee's right to be able to drive without any extra stress. Tailgaters are pests who violate our space and probably don't even know why they do it. J. Isa reported that tailgating should be more specifically defined because of the safety implications. She also believes that the laws against it are not enforced as strictly as they should be. Isa views tailgating as a form of harassment and an invasion of privacy. Offenders are disrespectful and discourteous people performing an act of aggression with an intent to hurt or demean. In her report, L.Izutsu states that the consequences of tailgating are not very serious, making it easier to rationalize the behavior. She goes on to say that tailgaters may feel a slight sense of invincibility as they encounter close calls but almost always manage to come out okay.

Crawford, Isa, and Izutsu agree that tailgating is a negative and unjustifiable act; an intrusion into another person's space. They all feel the punishment or costs are not great enough. Both Crawford and Izutsu admit to being tailgaters, but Izutsu claims to be more aware and cautious when tailgating.

Tailgating is significant to traffic psychology because it is a behavior that people engage in when in traffic. Its importance also comes from the fact that tailgating not only affect the driver but the others around, particularly the person being tailgated. This act influences the behavior and the thoughts of others. We must think about why people engage in such behavior and what steps could be taken to prevent it.

I must admit I am also a tailgater. I usually do it to punish other drivers for offenses I believe they have committed against me. I do this when someone cut in front of me in an unsafe manner (e.g. they speed up and go in front, while almost taking the front corner of my car with them or when I'm going 60-65 mph and someone comes in front going at least ten mph slower) or when I'm trying to get on the freeway and someone speeds up so I won't go in front. I know two wrong don't make a right, but I can't seem to help myself. When I feel I've been wronged, revenge comes to my mind. Tailgating also depends on how a person feels on a certain day. When have a bad day, I find myself more prone to tailgate people, sometimes for no reason at all. On other days I just cruise along almost indifferently to people going in front of me.

I believe the reason why so many people tailgate is that the rewards greatly outweigh any punishment. Tailgaters may encounter close calls but don't get into accidents as many accidents as one would think. In addition, the laws against tailgating are not enforce very often. For me, the belief that I'm successful in getting even with someone by making them uncomfortable is a big reinforcement.

I know that I'm wrong when I tailgate and I am violating the rights of others. I should try harder to be more courteous to others. It would certainly prevent a lot of the anxiety of nearly getting into an accident and would do wonders for my blood pressure (not that mine is high). Instead of getting angry other drivers, I should try to relax and not let them get the best of me.

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Involvement in Convoys

In C.Kaneshiro's report, she used Tallman's (I'm not sure who this person is) definition of four different types of convoys. The first type is when a slow car in one of the lane, disrupting the flow of traffic. The second type is when a fast car acts as a leader and everyone else try to keep up. The third convoy is when there are a lot of cars moving in their own group with enough room to maneuver. The fourth convoy is the type that occurs in rush hour and the cars are bumper-to-bumper. Kaneshiro made the observation that almost everyone is involved in one type of convoy. This is particularly true when it is rush hour. Everyone stays close together to avoid the sucking-in phenomenon. Kaneshiro believes that people join convoys in free flowing traffic to avoid being pulled over by the police.

M. Ota has even noticed that slow drivers also have their convoys in the far right lanes. These people may do it to feel safe from more radical drivers. Ota discovered that she enjoyed leading the convoy. Her reasoning was that she would be less likely to get pulled over for a ticket. Reisner also believes people joined convoys to avoid getting a ticket or to feel safe. Reisner sees members of a convoy as working "as a unit and functioning in both a parasitic and symbiotic manner. In any case, to him, convoys are inevitable and there is no escape.

In all the references used, a belief that convoys are almost unavoidable was unanimous. People usually do it for safety reasons or to avoid being pulled over. Tallman was the only one who actually defined the different types of convoys that exist. Most of the reports see convoys as either something that happens in the fast lane or the slow lane.

Convoys are significant to traffic psychology because of the way we tend to be able to rationalize our involvement. For many of us, involvement in a convoy usually means breaking the law by exceeding the speed limit. We seem to think that when other people do it, we can also. Most people don't look at it as breaking the law, but moving with the flow of traffic. I also think there is significance in that many of the participants don't realize it.

In my self-observations, I definitely noticed the convoys and discovered that I too, was a participant. I noticed that I enjoyed being in the middle of the convoy. I feel there is to much pressure in the front because I sometimes think I may be going to slow. I don't like the back because if we're all exceeding the speed limit, the one at the end will probably be the one who gets caught. Sometimes, I join convoys just so other drivers won't get mad (especially in the left lane). Before, I was never aware of my involvement in convoys. I just did it without thinking about it; almost unconsciously.

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Speeding on the Road

I had a hard time finding references on this subject. I did come across J.Lai's article. She expressed great irritation at those who cut in and out of traffic to get to their destination faster during peak traffic hours. She feels that all actions like this does is increase the possibility of an accident, increasing the time to get to where you want to go. Lai had link on her page to others on the same topic so I checked those out. I came to C.Balatico's comments on the subject. This was just a reaction to Lai report. She expresses amusement at people who weave in an out of traffic, knowing those people aren't going to get to their destination that much sooner. She advises people in traffic to be patient because getting irritated only makes you do thing that are dangerous to you and others as well. There was also a link to M. Ota's report. She doesn't see a need for excessive speeding, but thinks it's okay to go a little over the limit as long as safety precautions are taken. She states a belief that people who take extremes (slow or fast) are the reason for many of the accidents. All three of the sources agree on the dangers of speeding. It only causes accidents or results in getting a ticket.

Speeding is very important to traffic psychology. It is a curious behavior which many of us engage in, but sometimes don't know why. It is important to understand this as traffic psychologists in order to take steps to prevent it. As with anything, if we think about the consequences of speeding (dangers, ticket, etc.), we would be able to make safer decisions.

I admit I do speed a little, but never more than 10 mph over the limit. I don't consider this speeding even though according to the limit it is. This is because when I drive, I'm going with the flow of traffic. I realize that I'm just trying to justify my behavior, but I think disrupting the flow of traffic would only increase the likelihood of an accident. I always travel in the left lane and always try to take safety precautions. One of the reasons I speed is because I'm always pressed for time. I allow myself just enough time to get to my destination. If I leave earlier and am more prepared, I wouldn't have to speed and would still get to where I need to go on time. This certainly would be a safer way than rushing to the destination.

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Aggressive Driving

In C. Balatico's report, she goes over possible reasons behind aggressive driving. One of the reasons mentioned is frustration. Driving in traffic can be frustrating and cause a great deal of irritation. This frustration clouds your thinking and, but if you calm down you increase the chances of driving well and decrease the chances of angering others. Even the most calm person can become frustrated behind the wheel. She advises taking control of the dangerous thoughts by ranting or expressing yourself verbally. You should also focus on your driving instead of looking at the mistakes of others.

D. Beauchemin believes that aggressive drivers experience more stress and are easily irritated. They also enjoy taking risks and seem to take pleasure in cutting in front of other drivers. It is when they are unsuccessful and become frustrated that they engage in dangerous behavior. She admits to being an aggressive driver. Her aggression seems to stem from frustration of following a slow driver who allows everyone to cut in front.

In Takitani's report theories of aggression were discussed. The first one claims that aggressive driving comes from modeling. That is you see someone being aggressive in their driving you begin to drive aggressively as well. Another theory is that aggression has a strong genetic component. The last theory raised is that frustration leads to aggression. The example of being stuck in traffic where you have little control is given. Because we can't do anything, frustration increases and strongly impacts our actions.

The reports are consistent in that the root of aggression is frustration, although the frustration itself has different roots. I tend to believe that frustration does breed aggression. For me, the aggressive behavior I tend to engage in is tailgating. As reported earlier I do it as retaliation. I become frustrated when people cut me off and this strongly influences my behavior. I guess when thing like this happen, I should take a deep breath and try some relaxation technique. This way I may be able to keep my emotions under control and will be able to think things through before taking action.

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Pedestrian Issues

K. Matsuyoshi reported that people have a tendency to walk on the right side of the sidewalk. It is interesting that we also drive on the right side. He also discussed the speed at which people walk. Some are almost at a crawling pace. Others walk so fast and barge their way through the traffic. C. Kaneshiro's expressed no patience or tolerance for pedestrians. She must have had some bad experiences. Those who block the sidewalks and people who walk outside the crosswalk really get under her skin. J. Isa made an interesting observation in that people maneuver themselves on sidewalks much like the way the do with their cars when driving. She becomes upset when someone walks against the flow of traffic.

In her report L. Izutsu addresses the rights and safety of the pedestrian. She advises people to cross street where there is a traffic light. She feels it is safer and certainly worth the effort. She also brought up the point that many of the walking signals do not give sufficient time for the pedestrian to cross the street. These signals do not take into account the age and physical condition of the pedestrian.

Matsuyoshi and Kaneshiro agree that walking has a great deal in common with driving. Many of the same issues come up. L. Izutsu seemed to be the only one concerned with the rights of pedestrians. The others address the problems, pedestrian may cause.

I'm in total agreement that people normally walk on the right side. Until I read the reports, I was totally oblivious to this. It seems that many of the concepts in driving also apply when on is walking. I also agree with Izutsu's opinion on walking signal. It is definitely safer to cross at one. Sometimes, I can be driving along and not notice a pedestrian is crossing. I not for my excellent reflexes, I may have hit someone. Many times, it is hard to see the pedestrian because of the cars around you and they seem to come out of nowhere. I've learned to take note of cars in other lanes. When they start to stop, I usually slow down, because I know someone is probably crossing the street. These crosswalks in the middle of a street are dangerous because sometimes people just walk out, even when cars are approaching at 30-35 mph, sometimes faster.

Not only do drivers have to be careful, but pedestrians should as well. L. Izutsu is also correct in her opinion that walking signals don't give enough time to pedestrian. This is dangerous and changes should be made to accommodate all type of people.

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Conclusions

I am aware that I am a member of convoys but I usually enjoy my participation. This is something that will take great effort in avoiding. This is particularly true because most of the time, I'm not aware of my participation.

Having to observe myself has made me more aware of the things I do when I'm on the road. I know that having to record my behavior has a reactive effect, in that I don't do things as I would normally do. In effect, my observations of myself may not be accurately reflect my normal behavior. When I start to tailgate someone, I think about having to record it, take a couple of deep breaths, and try to keep my distance. Of course, there are times when I'm so angry, I don't care that I'm supposed to be recording myself. These are the times I have take extra precautions. I have a habit of letting my emotions get the better of me. In some situations this may be constructive. However, behind the wheel, it only leads to dangerous situations. For me, many of the bad decisions I make while driving stem from frustration with the traffic situation or with other aggressive drivers.

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