ROADS REPORT: Getting to know yourself

The vehicles we own, the way we drive, even the music we listen to have much to say about the people we are

Blog Entry October 04, 2013

David Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news for his Roads Report column since 2000. The stories are all true.

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Self mastery
Cancel the Australian walkabout. If you really want to get to know yourself, just take a close look at what and how you drive.

For example, if you have a lead foot, you’re likely a fan of either heavy metal music or talk radio.

A new survey by the Canadian insurance comparison site finds that drivers who are riled up—either by fast, aggressive music or passionate conversation—are the most likely to wind up with a speeding ticket.

On the other hand, slower drivers are probably fans of folk or classical music. Research shows that the slower the music, the slower the driving.

Of course, it’s no surprise that drunken drivers are more likely to be listening to classic rock or country music. After all, half the songs are about exactly that.

Your choice of vehicles also is revealing. Statistically, introverted people tend to drive Volvos. Agreeable people seem to prefer Japanese brands like Toyota or Nissan, while antagonistic people are more likely to own a Ford.

But watch out for Audi drivers. The UK dating site for married cheaters found that Audi is the most popular make of car among its 800,000 members.

Let’s face it
Research from the University of Vienna discovered an insight into how we evaluate cars.  

Because car fronts are symmetrical with details resembling human facial features, researchers found that we tend to attribute human characteristics to cars based on the type of “face” we see in the car’s design.

The team surveyed both drivers in Austria and residents of rural Ethiopia, where car advertisements are nearly nonexistent and few people own vehicles.

The findings suggest a universality in the way that people look at cars, judging them with similar standards to those they use to evaluate human faces.

Cars with slit-like, wide-set headlights (eyes) and smaller windshields (forehead) were judged as “male,” “adult” and “dominant.” Closer-set headlights and larger windshields were interpreted as childlike or feminine features. Larger grills (nose) and wider air intakes (lips) were seen as mature or even old.

Next the team wants to examine whether these perceptions influence our buying decisions or assumptions about other drivers.

Music to my ears
Does the soundtrack in our car affect our driving, or just reflect the type of drivers we already are?

New Dutch research finds that listening to music behind the wheel doesn’t hurt driving performance. In fact, in some situations it might even boost focus.

The simulated driving study of 50 college-age students found that listening to music is much less engaging than talking on a cell phone or even to other passengers in the vehicle.

In fact, neither the presence of music nor its volume appeared to have any ill effect on the drivers’ ability to properly follow a car ahead of them.

What’s more, those who drove with music responded faster to changes in the speed of the car they were following than those driving without music. And the louder the music, the faster the response.

Music also seemed to enhance drivers’ energy and arousal, helping to alleviate boredom without siphoning off critical driver focus. The research showed that louder music prompted more energy than moderate-volume music.

So take that, Mom and Dad. R&B

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