An ongoing study on the social psychology of road safety conducted jointly by the London School of Economics and tyre manufacturer Goodyear has found seven different driver personality types on Britain’s roads.
Researchers conducted focus groups and in depth interviews with drivers to discover how drivers deal with their own feelings and their uncertainty as to the behaviour of other road users. Their preliminary findings show that the following personalities frequently manifest themselves:
- The Teacher: needs to make sure other drivers know what they have done wrong and expects recognition of his/her efforts to teach others.
- The Know-it-all: thinks he/she is surrounded by incompetent fools and contents themselves with shouting condescendingly at other drivers while being protected in their own car.
- The Competitor: needs to get ahead of all other drivers and is annoyed when someone gets in the way of that. He/she might accelerate when someone tries to overtake them or close a gap to prevent anyone from getting in front of them.
- The Punisher: wants to punish other drivers for any perceived misbehavior. Might end up getting out of his/her car or approaching other drivers directly.
- The Philosopher: accepts misbehavior easily and tries to rationally explain it. Manages to control his/her feelings in the car.
- The Avoider: treats misbehaving other drivers impersonally, dismisses them as a hazard.
- The Escapee: listens to music or talks on the phone to insulate him/herself. Escapees distract themselves with selected social relationships so that they do not have to relate to any of the other drivers on the road. It’s also a strategy for not getting frustrated in the first place.
These ‘driving personalities’ emerge in different situations when drivers interact with others on the road.
Dr. Chris Tennant, from LSE’s Department of Social Psychology, who is leading the research project for LSE and Goodyear, said: “Much of the time we can sit happily in the comfortable bubble of our car, but around any corner we may have to interact with other drivers. This makes the road a challenging and uncertain social environment.
“While we may worry about others’ driving, this research suggests that their behavior also depends on what we do. We create the personalities that we don’t like. From a psychological point of view, these different types of personalities represent different outlets that drivers use to deal with their frustrations and strong feelings. We are not always entirely one or the other. Depending on the situation and the interaction with others, most of us will find several of these profiles emerge.” Kate Rock, PR Manager for Goodyear Tyres, said: “Understanding what type of behavior we exhibit and what situations provoke it is a first step for all of us to better control it, thereby creating a safer driving environment for ourselves and others on the road.
“Besides effective enforcement of laws against aggressive driving; education and life–long learning remain the most powerful public strategies to address this social and emotional aspect of driving and to achieve the greatest improvements in road safety.”