You’re driving in the car with your boyfriend in the passenger seat when he suddenly releases a big sigh of frustration. You avoid making eye contact or asking him what’s wrong because you already know what he’s going to say. You’re driving too slow! I should have driven. If I had, we’d already be there by now. Girls are such bad drivers, it’s ridiculous. You’re convinced otherwise. Boys are always driving too fast, too dangerously, too aggressively. Girls are all-around better, safer drivers. Well, sorry folks, you nor your significant other is right. Turns out there is no evidence-based claim that says male or female drivers are worse or more aggressive than their counterparts. But a recent study focused on aggression revealed that younger drivers are.
The study ultimately found that aggressive thoughts behind the wheel lead directly to aggressive behavior, which then triggers risky behavior related to automobile accidents. It also showed that younger drivers experience more anger as well as express more aggression, which means they might be the worse or at least more accident-prone drivers on the road.
It’s clear to many that there’s a link between accidents and risky behavior. That’s why we fear the guy with road rage and the one weaving in and out of traffic like he’s untouchable. But on a deeper level, there are actually three factors we can look at to predict traffic accidents. These include the road factor, the vehicle factor, and the human factor—the latter being the most important, according to David Herrero, author of the study.
In order to further explore this factor, Herrero measured aggressive thoughts, risky behavior, and aggressive behavior in this study. He asked 414 people (all of whom have valid driving licenses and drive regularly) to answer two questionnaires: one which served to measure aggressive thoughts and the other to measure risky behavior. He also kept age and gender in mind, which resulted in the finding of greater aggression in young drivers as well as the fact that men and women are equally aggressive on the road.
Herrero believes that this study could help improve road safety and also be useful in clinical psychology, as “risky, aggressive behavior in driving is a subject that has been little dealt with clinically, but what is true is that there is a small though significant percentage of drivers who are highly prone to behaving this way.”
When I was driving with my 15-year-old brother the other day, he asked why I didn’t just run through the yellow light. I told him that yellow does not in fact mean speed up, but slow down, and that you never know who might be flying through the light on the other side. Still, he insisted I should have floored it. This is a perfect example of a younger driver expressing more aggression. And had he been behind the wheel, rather than myself, an accident could have resulted from it. But instead of allowing my frustration with his aggression get the best of me, I pledged to teach him how to be a safer driver. And I pledged to be a safer driver myself. Because according to Herrero, “if we can make a person capable of spotting when he/she is behaving in a risky or even aggressive way, we will be reducing accident-related events.”