Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Taking It Personally

The following article appeared in yesterday's newspaper. The topic was also discussed on The Adam Carolla Show.

Who's prone to road rage? Check for bumper stickers

Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post
Jun. 17, 2008 12:00 AM

Three horrors await Americans who get behind the wheel of a car for a family road trip this summer: the spiraling price of gas, the usual choruses of "Are we there yet?" and the road rage of fellow drivers.

Divine intervention might be needed for the first two problems, but science has discovered a solution for the third.
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Watch out for cars with bumper stickers.

That's the conclusion of a recent study by Colorado State University social psychologist William Szlemko. Drivers of cars with bumper stickers, window decals, personalized license plates and other "territorial markers" not only get mad when someone cuts in their lane or is slow to respond to a changed traffic light, but they are far more likely than those who do not personalize their cars to use their vehicles to express rage by honking, tailgating and other aggressive behavior.

It does not seem to matter whether the messages on the stickers are about peace and love or angry and in-your-face.

The key to the phenomenon apparently lies in the idea of territoriality. Drivers with road rage tend to think of public streets as "my street" and "my lane" - in other words, they think they own the road.


First of all, I don't want to know how much grant money the government mindlessly doled out for this pointless, inane study. Seriously...I don't. It would probably give me some sort of tax payer rage.
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Second, let's talk bumper stickers. I fail to see that the minivan driver with the "My son is an honor student at Smith Elementary" sticker exhibits the same degree of rage as the pickup truck owner with "My kid beat up your honor student" plastered on his bumper.

It just seems wrong to paint all personalized plates and stickers with the same brush. Take the small business owner, for example. A pest control worker with BUG GUY on his plate is probably just trying to advertise his company.

Q and I personalized our license plates a few years ago, and I don't think we're prone to road rage. Well, he's not, anyway. Besides, the plates were my idea. I thought they were cute. He just went along with it as an affordable way to make his high maintenance wife happy.
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And then there's Q's family. Many of them have had a personalized plates at one point. And they're the most mild mannered bunch out there.

But perhaps some of the most famous personalized plates belong to the Ewing family from the TV show Dallas. All cars featured a EWING license plate followed by a number that loosely corresponded with the driver's place in the family.
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The Ewings were definitely a spirited bunch. They may have even had a road rage incident or two among them (I know of one involving Pamela and a Jeep full of good ol' boys). But I find it ironic that most anger-fueled member of the clan--Ray Krebbs--drove around with standard issue Texas plates on his truck.
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My conclusion: not all angry drivers personalize their cars and not all people who personalize their cars are angry drivers.

2 comments:

Christopher said...

I would imagine Pam was fairly enraged when she ran her pretty Porsche into the gas truck! Katherine running over Bobby would have pissed her off too, had it not been a dream. And when Jamie Ewing got blown up in a car bomb that was meant for her brother Jack, placed by Angelica Nero, well you can bet there was some rage involved there.

Jesus, I need to get a life.

Ms. Val said...

Christopher, Pam drove Bobby's red Mercedes into the gas truck. The Porsche was making noises and they swapped cars for the day.

And you think YOU need to get a life!!!!