Monday, June 16, 2008

Bumper Sticker = Bad Driver

Bumper Sticker Shock

Drivers who personalize their cars take it personally. Beware of the bumper sticker.

That's the unexpected conclusion of a recent study by William Szlemko of Colorado State University in the Journal of Applied Psychology, reported in the Washington Post in Shankar Vedantam's column. "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 -- "Visualize World Peace," "My Kid Is an Honor Student" -- or angry and in your face -- "Don't Mess With Texas," "My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student." The personalizing of the vehicle might be seen as territory markers.

"The more markers a car has, the more aggressively the person tends to drive when provoked," Szlemko said. "Just the presence of territory markers predicts the tendency to be an aggressive driver."

The implications for bicyclists are obvious -- aggressive drivers are bad news. The problems are equally obvious -- very seldom do we get a look at a vehicle's bumper until it has passed us.

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