By Kevin R. Betts
Sitting next to my grandpa in the back seat of my mom’s car last week, I listened to him critique his daughter’s driving: “I could have made it through that gap three times by now.” “How do you get anywhere?” “How come Kevin isn’t driving?” Seemingly unaffected by my grandpa’s comments, my mom and grandma discussed the things they wanted to do before our family vacation in Traverse City, Michigan was over. Reminiscent for me of the humorous website http://shitmydadsays.com/, I just laughed.
Although my grandpa’s comments are humorous, the aggressive driving habits he hopes my mom will adopt are not. Just a month earlier than our vacation, a man in the same city sped down a local road and rolled his vehicle, killing one passenger and seriously injuring another. Around the world, similar stories are heard. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that 37,261 people died on U.S. roads in 2008 alone.
Hoping to shed light on factors that influence aggressive driving like that resulting in the abovementioned accident, Michele Lustman and colleagues (2010) surveyed a sample of motorists, collecting information about their driving habits and personality characteristics. Results revealed a link between trait narcissism and both perception of intentionality following road incidents and aggressive driving behaviors. Specifically, motorists with high self-esteem were more likely than those with low self-esteem to perceive ambiguous road incidents as intentional, and to react to those incidents aggressively. The researchers suggest that the aggressive reactions of these drivers may be in response to threatened high self-esteem that results from perceived offenses by other drivers.