Safety & Compliance

Survey Digs into Four-Wheeler Confessions

September 09, 2013

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If you see a motorist cussing in front of kids in the car or flipping people off, it's most likely to be a woman, but men aren't pillars of polite driving, either -- at least according to one newly released survey.

Credit: Insurance.com
Credit: Insurance.com

Insurance.com commissioned a survey of 1,000 adults, asking them about their rude driving behavior and if they had any regrets about it.

Meanwhile, men are twice as likely as women to key someone's car or flash drivers with their high-beams just to be mean, survey results show.

Here's what drivers admit to, with results also broken down by gender:

  • Honked at someone driving too slowly: 41%, (Women: 39%. Men: 43%.)
  • Swore in front of the kids while driving: 37%, (Women: 44%. Men: 30%.)
  • Flipped someone off while driving: 29%, (Women: 31%. Men: 27%.)
  • Brake-checked a car following too closely: 28%, (Women: 30%. Men: 27%.)
  • Sped up significantly to prevent someone from passing you: 26%, (Women: 25%. Men: 28%.)
  • Gone when it wasn't your turn at a four-way stop: 19%, (Women: 18%. Men: 20%.)
  • Tailgated someone on purpose because he or she was going too slowly: 18%, (Women: 21%. Men: 16%.)
  • Driven to the front of a merge line, then swerved and cut in: 12%, (Women: 11%. Men: 13%.)
  • Stolen a parking spot someone else was waiting for: 11%, (Women:  9%. Men: 13%.)
  • Driven in the breakdown lane around traffic: 10%, (Women: 8%. Men: 13%.)
  • Sped up to block another car with its signal on: 9%, (Women: 8%. Men: 10%.)
  • Chased after a car that cut you off so you could glare at/flip off the other driver: 9%, (Women: 7%. Men: 11%.)
  • Swore in front of elderly in-laws while driving: 9%, (Women: 9%. Men: 10%.)
  • Dinged someone's car in a parking lot and driven away: 8%, (Women: 8%. Men: 8%.)
  • Turned on your brights at an oncoming car just to be mean: 7%, (Women: 4%. Men: 11%.)
  • Keyed someone's car: 5%, (Women: 3%. Men: 7%.)

It's likely that most women aren't swearing in front of their children at home, or that anyone is flipping off an annoying person, say, in line at the grocery store. But people feel less inhibited when driving because they feel more anonymous, says Leon James, psychology professor at the University of Hawaii, who has conducted research on driving behaviors.

“Our social behaviors are for the most part conditioned by the social environment. Different rules apply to different places," he says. "The car gives us the illusion of being alone and safe in our fortress. If we do something ugly or inconsiderate we can always get away. But this is different when standing in line with others who are right there next to us."

Our socialization and culture also influence how we act behind the wheel, says James. "Our driving behavior styles are culturally determined. I call the back seat of the car 'road rage nursery.'  That's when our driver education begins. We absorb how the parents or other adults drive and how they talk and complain behind the wheel," he says. "We also watch TV scenes and commercials where driving aggressively, fast and with plenty of verbal rudeness are portrayed as attractive and satisfying. So, getting behind the wheel changes the rules."

Some drivers aren't losing sleep over their rude driving habits. One quarter of people who admit to bad behavior while driving said they don't regret any of their past misdeeds.

The least-regretted action was brake-checking cars that are following too closely.

But those with a guilty conscious say they have the following regrets:

  • Swore in front of the kids while driving: 75%
  • Dinged someone's car in a parking lot and driven away: 62%
  • Keyed someone's car: 56%
  • Swore in front of elderly in-laws while driving: 51%
  • Gone when it wasn't your turn at a 4-way stop: 51%
  • Flipped someone off while driving: 47%
  • Turned on your brights at an oncoming car just to be mean: 46%
  • Stolen a parking spot someone else was waiting for: 46%
  • Chased after a car that cut you off so you could glare at them/flip them off: 44%
  • Driven in the breakdown lane around traffic: 44%
  • Sped up to block another car with its signal on: 42%
  • Tailgated someone on purpose because he or she was going too slow: 41%
  • Driven to the front of a merge line, then swerved and cut in: 36%
  • Honked at someone driving too slowly: 36%
  • Sped up significantly to prevent someone from passing you: 36%
  • Brake-checked a car following too closely: 34%

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