Fact Check: Are Men Really More Aggressive Drivers?

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It’s common knowledge that men tend to have higher auto insurance rates, and part of the reason for this is that  they are thought to be more aggressive drivers. In other words, they are believed to be more likely to do things like…

  • indicate hostility to other drivers,
  • honk their horns at another driver, or even
  • chase other cars

So do men do those things more often than women?

Well in short, yes.

Here’s how we know.

In 2005, Roberts and Indermaur found that men were almost eight times more likely than females to be perpetrators in an act of driving violence. At the same time, though, men were also significantly more likely to have been threatened by another driver while on the road. In fact, they found that one in five males reported being victims of what could be classified as criminal road rage compared to merely one in 14 females. Meanwhile, in a more recent study, Wickens and colleagues found that while both men and women confessed to being perpetrators as far as shouting, swearing, and making rude gestures, men were still more likely to execute such acts.

One of the bigger questions one needs to answer regarding whether or not males are truly more aggressive drivers is: what makes one driver more aggressive than another? Researchers have found that younger drivers, both male and female, tend to be more aggressive than older drivers. Additionally, consistent with these findings, Wickens and colleagues (2012) have also found that males still tend to partake in more aggressive driving than females do, despite their age (as shown below; Wickens, Mann, Stoduto, Butters, Ialomiteanu, & Smart, 2012).

Capture

In addition to aggressive driving and perpetrating acts of violence when driving, males admitted receiving more fines, committing more traffic violations, and being involved in more accidents in the previous five years than females (González-Iglesias, Gómez-Fraguela, & Luengo-Martín, 2012).

Taken together, the data reveals that while both men and women can be aggressive drivers, men are more likely to be aggressive drivers than women.

By Gracie Kellow
Gracie is a senior at UWGB who plans on graduating in December 2016 as a Psychology major with a mental health emphasis and a minor in Human Development. After graduation, she plans on attending law school.


González-Iglesias, B., Gómez-Fraguela, J., & Luengo-Martín, M. &. (2012). Driving anger and traffic violations: Gender differences. Transportation Research, 404-412. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.trf.2012.03.002

Roberts, L., & Indermaur, D. (2005). Boys and road rage: Driving-related violence and aggression in western Australia. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 38, 361-380. http://dx.doi.org/10.1375/acri.38.3.361

Wickens, C., Mann, R., Stoduto, G., Butters, J., Ialomiteanu, A., & Smart, R. (2012). Does gender moderate the relationship between driver aggression and its risk factors? Accident Analysis and Prevention, 45, 10-18. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.aap.2011.11.013

A Look at How our Thoughts Influence Aggressive Driving

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It has long been a mystery why aggressive and non-aggressive drivers handle hostile situations differently. Sundé Nesbit, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Northern Iowa, recently published an article in the Journal of Transportation Research examining this very question.  Specifically, Nesbit looked at the cognitions, or thoughts, of aggressive and non-aggressive drivers.

About the article, Nesbit wrote that, “I tend to view behavior (of any kind) as a consequence of how people think about and interpret their world.” This opinion was illustrated through Nesbit’s research as she questioned and surveyed participants about their past driving experiences, and how they would react in various driving situations. It was expected that the drivers who typically expressed their anger outwardly would be more likely to be aggressive drivers. Likewise, it was expected that those who were more able to control their anger would drive more safely.

Nesbit found that the data supported her hypothesis saying that, “The majority of participants in the higher aggression group had been in at least one collision (72%) and had received a speeding ticket (63%). In comparison, participants reporting fewer aggressive acts also reported fewer collisions (49%) and speeding tickets (34%).” In addition, it was found that those who were maladaptive thinkers were more likely to be aggressive drivers than those who laid out the consequences before they acted on a situation.

Clearly, the way we think and act regarding a certain situation, such as driving, can have an impact on the consequences of the situation. Nesbit believes that, “how we think about these situations (i.e., if we think about our driving circumstances and other drivers in a hostile and retaliatory way) will increase the likelihood that we will become angry and will react in aggressive ways while driving.” This research suggests that drivers should think positively about the provocations on the road, in order to prevent accidents and speeding citations. Remember, the way you think will most likely influence the way you act.

For questions about this research, contact Dr. Sundé Nesbit at sunde.nesbit@uni.edu.

By Timothy Zietz
Tim is a Psychology and Human Biology Major with a minor in Chemistry.  He plans on graduating in 2015 and attending medical school to obtain his MD and PhD and specializing in neurosurgery.

Why Driving Makes Us Mad

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If you were an evil genius and wanted to develop a situation that made people angry, it would look a lot like driving. 

Here are four reasons why:

Tension.  Quite simply, driving is dangerous.  Because it is dangerous, it makes us nervous.  This is true whether we have been doing it for days, years, or decades.  Even if we are so used to it that we don’t notice it anymore, we still feel some tension when we drive.  Read the rest at Psychology Today.