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Are you a highway hothead?

By Jay MacDonald ·
Friday, November 11, 2011
Posted: 10 am ET

The more you identify with your vehicle, the more likely you are to blow your top in traffic, according to a new study aimed at opening the hood on highway hotheads.

Like the rest of us, auto insurance companies included, Ayalla Ruvio wondered what makes aggressive drivers tick. So the assistant professor at Temple University's Fox School of Business decided to tailgate a few to find out. I'm just kidding; he actually wrote an academic paper called "Aggressive Driving: A Consumption Experience," which was probably a way safer choice.

In what is thought to be the first study of its kind, Ruvio's wild ride confirms many of our suspicions about aggressive drivers. Among his findings:

  • People who perceive their car as a reflection of their self-identity are more likely to behave aggressively on the road and break the law.
  • People with compulsive tendencies are more likely to drive aggressively with disregard for potential consequences.
  • Increased materialism, or the importance of one's possessions, is linked to increased aggressive driving tendencies.
  • Young people who are in the early stages of forming their self-identity might feel the need to show off their car and driving skills more than others. They may also be overconfident and underestimate the risks involved in reckless driving.
  • Those who admit to aggressive driving also admit to engaging in more incidents of breaking the law.
  • A sense of being under time and pressure leads to more aggressive driving.

"(The findings) suggest that the perception of the car as an extension of the self leads to more aggressive behavior on the road rather than increased driving cautiousness," Ruvio writes. "Individuals may view cars and the road space they occupy as their territory and will seek to maintain control over it and defend it as necessary."

Oh yes, and this does seem to be something of a male-pattern disorder.

"We know men tend to be more aggressive drivers and we know men tend to see their cars as an extension of themselves more than women," says Ruvio.

Let me add this personal note: please don't tell my auto insurance company about this study.

My rates are high enough already.

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