• Drivers smash the illusion that we’re a rational society

    by  • September 15, 2011 • Education • 0 Comments

    From the Canberra Times

    Not long
    after Henry Ford drove the car into mainstream American life, a new area of psychology began to flourish. Its aim, in layman’s terms, was to understand why apparently normal people become complete arseholes behind a steering wheel. Leon Brody’s 1955 book, The psychology of problem drivers, concluded that ”problem drivers are problem people; or rather, people with problems, including problems of which they often are not aware”. Until then, researchers had believed most crashes were caused by physical shortcomings such as slow reflexes, poor eyesight and glare-recovery time. But, as Herbert Stack wrote in the Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine in 1956, ”[In] all of our studies, these characteristics have been found to have little significance. The real causes of accidents are far more deep-seated. They have to do with our attitudes, our emotions, and our judgments.”
    We don’t need to read this in journals; it’s evident to any observant driver, even on Canberra’s comparatively calm roads. Once inside a car, a harsh self-interest replaces many civilians’ usual willingness to co-operate. Driving becomes less a means of travelling efficiently than a competition to get ahead of nearby ”rivals”. We throw caution out the window in favour of cutting our journeys by seconds. Drivers who are mild mannered in all other aspects of life become enraged by the perceived slights of other motorists (and especially cyclists). And almost no one respects basic road rules such as speed limits and the requirement to indicate; somehow, when we’re in a car, these laws become optional.  [Continue reading…]

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