Steer clear of jerks

Especially the wealthy, disagreeable, and sleepy ones

David Matthews / March 02, 2020
David Matthews

It’s a common misconception that luxury car drivers are self-centered, wealthy jerks.

A new study in the Journal of International Psychology clarifies that luxury car owners are actually self-centered, stubborn, disagreeable, and unempathetic wealthy jerks.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki wanted to find out if wealthy jerks are drawn to high-status cars, or if high-status cars turn wealthy drivers into jerks.

Turns out neither is true. After interviewing 1,892 drivers about their vehicle, wealth, and consumption habits, researchers found that personality traits were the root of both the bad driving and the expensive taste in cars.

Drivers whose personality was classified as disagreeable were drawn more to luxury cars like Audi, BMW, or Mercedes, supporting previous research showing that wealthy drivers often see themselves as superior and try to display that to others.

However, jerks weren’t the only personality type drawn to luxury cars.

In a surprise twist, “respectable, ambitious, reliable, and well-organized” people also gravitated toward high-status vehicles. 

But instead of flaunting their status, these drivers value high quality. As reliable people, they seek out reliable vehicles.

And unlike the wealthy jerk drivers, conscientious drivers don’t tend to be aggressive behind the wheel.

While not studied, I presume that drivers classified as charismatic and dashing, traits typically found in writers of road and bridge construction news, naturally gravitate toward 2009 Ford Fiestas. 

Get the message

Sometimes we all need a gentle reminder to drive a little more carefully, which is why classic safety slogans like “Click it or ticket” and “Drive sober or get pulled over” were so effective.

Well, the Georgia DOT decided to ring in 2020 with some new classics, so they launched a Safety Message Competition last fall. 

The public was invited to submit messages promoting safe driving to be displayed on the state’s digital message signs located on major highways throughout Georgia. 

The only rules were that the messages could not exceed 63 characters, and no profanity was allowed.

Judges reviewed hundreds of submissions in five categories and recently announced the following winners:

General Safety: “If you miss your exit it’s okay, we made more up ahead.” 

Impaired Driving: “Driving half lit is not very bright.”

Seatbelt (tie): “This is a sign you should buckle up” and “If you don’t wear a seat belt, please be an organ donor.”

Work Zone Safety: “Look left, look right, keep workers in sight.”

Distracted Driving (tie): “You look great but the selfie can wait” and “Looking at the road is a great way to stay on it.”

All the rage

Driving like a jerk has consequences, and perhaps this is why a survey by insurance website The Zebra uncovered some disturbing statistics about road rage. 

The study found that the vast majority of drivers (82%) admit to having road rage or driving aggressively at least once in the past year. 

Other alarming findings:

  • 59% reported showing anger by honking.
  • 42% admitted they’ve yelled or cursed loudly at another driver.
  • 38% said they’ve used rude or obscene gestures against other drivers. 

Why are drivers getting so angry behind the wheel? There are several theories.

“Sociologists point to the fragmentation of society and the disintegration of shared values and sense of community as the cause of these and other acts of incivility,” says the National Highway Traffic Safety Association.

Other experts believe the ever-increasing pace and responsibilities of modern life are to blame. Sleep is often sacrificed, and a 2016 AAA study found that sleep deprivation significantly increases a driver’s risk of crashing.

Whatever the cause, we all need to settle down, so the drivers surveyed were asked how they cool off when experiencing road rage:

  • 62% listen to music.
  • 23% think of something else.
  • 0.3% try to smack the living bejeezus out of that aggravating (yet dashing) Ford Fiesta driver.

About the Author

Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news since 2000. The stories are all true.

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