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So now it’s official – something my confirmation bias explained a long time ago…drivers of expensive cars are more likely to be jerks!

Two studies – one in the U.S. and one in the U.K.  – seem to provide statistics that support the perception that drivers of high end cars, BMWs in particular, are more aggressive road-ragers than the rest of the population. In an older study, The New York Times noted that University of California researchers found BMW drivers were far less likely to stop for a pedestrian entering  a crosswalk. But cars in the “beater” category, always stopped for pedestrians and never drove through crosswalks. BMW (and high-end car) drivers are also most likely to “cheat” at four-way stop intersections.

In the recent U.K. study, 2,937 drivers were asked to identify the make and color of cars that they have most frequently experienced road-rage incidents, such as shouting and swearing, aggressive driving, and/or hand gestures. Blue was the top colour, followed by black, silver, green and red. Also based on the answers of these motorists, men between 35 and 50 driving in blue BMWs were more likely to be offenders. Drivers also reported encounters with Land Rovers, Audis, Subarus and Vauxhalls.

Male drivers admit losing their temper on average 7 times a month. Women, on the other hand, only admit to raging on average 3 times a month.  Shouting and swearing are the top performances.

The study also found that Monday mornings and Friday evenings were the most stressful times to be on the road, with the peak time for road-raging around 5:45 on Friday afternoons.  I can’t imagine why!

The Challenge:

Had I been asked these questions, I would have said black or silver cars driven by men, age 25-60, and I would have pegged BMW or Mercedes drivers at the top. I doubt if where or what time of day I am driving would affect my answers. Normally, I don’t drive on the highway, and I prefer to use back streets and less busy intersections to boot around town.

I decided to conduct my own survey (before the long weekend) just to see, throughout my day-to-day actions, for a one week period, just what kind of road-raging lunatics cross my path.

The first thing I learned was the need to define “road rage” because there are a lot of really bad and/or super aggressive drivers in this city. For example, if someone cut me off or they did a rolling stop (i.e., they slowed down at the stop sign but didn’t actually come to a complete stop), I (justifiably) called them an idiot but I couldn’t call them a road-rager. If, however, I saw arms waving, mouth flapping, or fingers gesturing, possibly followed by more aggressive driving, then I could safely classify them as road-ragers.

It didn’t take long to accumulate a list of “offenders”, and the list grew every time I went anywhere in the car. If I were to include the complete list, this post would be about 5 millions words long. So I randomly picked a couple examples:

#5 On the trip home from the church one weekday afternoon, a green Dodge Caravan driven by a 30ish (perky blonde) female, changed lanes in front of me, without signalling and cutting me off. She then slammed on her brakes and her hands flew off the steering wheel in an exasperated gesture at the driver in front of her because that driver deigned to stop at the very red light. Once we got going again, she proceeded to weave in and out of traffic, without signalling. Her hands involuntarily flew into the air at several stop lights and she never really got ahead in traffic.

#10 At a 4-way intersection, a black BMW with a 20ish male driver rolled through the stop sign to push ahead of me, even though I had come to a complete stop before proceeding with my turn. When I honked at him, he waved at me…with one finger…

#25 A 50ish male driver in a silver Elantra screamed through his very, very red light with his hand up in a traffic cop’s “stop” gesture at the oncoming traffic. Oncoming traffic was either too shocked or too polite to honk at him. If I had been part of that oncoming traffic, I would have hammered my horn long and hard (probably with my arms waving and screaming something complimentary that involved the words “moron” and “idiot”)!

#32 I met a crazy woman (with Jacki-O sunglasses) in a navy BMW convertible (top up) in front of the school. She was driving east and I was driving west. She tried to turn into my front bumper lane because she wanted to parallel park in the space on the other side of me. She started screaming so loud and gesturing so violently the small child in the back seat looked positively terrified. I did report her to the police when I got home.

There was the middle-aged balding man in a silver Mercedes who took exception to the speed I was driving (I guess 10 km over the speed limit wasn’t good enough). The 25 year old man in a black BMW who tailgated and drove down the middle of a two lane highway hoping to make someone drive faster so he could too….and so many more.

Honourable Mention: Road-ragers in parking lots deserve their own blog post, but here’s a sample: The parking lot at the school, in particular, is prime territory for road-raging lunatics. It isn’t unusual to hear horns honking or to see self-absorbed people blocking the driveway (with 8 cars lined up on the street), parked in the middle of the road, or parking in the no parking zone or laneway, despite the multiple empty and legal parking spaces right there. Rainy days after school are the worst. I’ve been blocked in and have seen so many snarls where literally no one can move… So notably, one warm night after school after most of the parents had gone home, despite the empty parking spaces, a woman parked her gold minivan in the laneway, facing oncoming traffic. Another woman in a silver Honda, accidentally backed into her (I don’t understand how she could have missed her – there were no vehicles parked near her and no one else moving in the parking lot). Both women were gesturing at each other and screaming in their own languages. I was quite thankful that my child couldn’t hear what I can only assume was exceptionally foul language.

In conclusion, I met a lot of scary road ragers in the city. Some of them drove expensive cars and there seemed to be more men than women. Age didn’t matter either. And finally, it might just be safer to take the bus!

References:

BMW Drivers Really are Jerks – Studies Find

BMW Drivers Worst Road Ragers – Study

Blue BMW Drivers Worst Road Ragers

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