By Matt Schmitz on September 9, 2013
Do you swear at other drivers who anger you in traffic or demonstrate your displeasure with a hand gesture — perhaps a certain avian signal done flippantly — even when your children are in the car? If so, you are more likely to answer to "Mommy" than "Daddy."
We know, we know: Your mother's a saint; she'd never talk like a sailor or make obscene gestures in front of her prides and joys, even in a tense traffic situation. Don't blame us. Insurance.com commissioned a survey of 1,000 adults regarding rude driving behaviors and their related regrets, and that's what the results show. Although the study reports that women may be more likely to let it fly in front of the kiddies, men were well-represented in the bad behavior department too. The other half favors honking for driving too slowly and speeding up to prevent passing; men are also twice as likely as women to flash their high beams at someone — just to be a jerk.
Leon James, psychology professor at the University of Hawaii, has researched driving behavior and says people’s perceived anonymity behind the wheel makes them feel uninhibited. "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," James said in a statement. "But this is different when standing in line with others who are right there next to us."
James, who calls the backseat of the car the "road rage nursery," said future motorists' driver's ed begins with what they absorb from their parents' behind-the-wheel behaviors. TV and other media also impact driving perceptions, with aggressive behavior often portrayed as being rewarding in some way and driving shown as a competitive activity.
While a quarter of drivers reported feeling no remorse about their bad behaviors, that still leaves a large percentage with pangs of guilt. In hindsight, 75% regretted swearing in front of the kids; 62%, dinging someone's car in a parking lot and driving away; 56%, keying someone's car; 51%, swearing in front of elderly in-laws; and 51%, driving through a four-way stop out of turn.
The top 10 bad behaviors, followed by the portion of survey participants overall who copped to them, then by the gender percentage breakdown, are:
1. Honking at someone driving too slowly, 41% total (39% women; 43% men)
2. Swearing in front of the kids, 37% (44% women; 30% men)
3. Flipping someone off while driving, 29% (31% women; 27% men)
4. Brake-checking a car following too close, 28% (30% women; 27% men)
5. Speeding up to prevent someone from passing, 26% (25% women; 28% men)
6. Going out of turn at a four-way stop, 19% (18% women; 20% men)
7. Tailgating someone going too slow, 18% (21% women; 16% men)
8. Driving to the front of a merge line, then cutting in, 12% (11% women; 13% men)
9. Stealing a parking space someone else was waiting for, 11% (9% women; 13% men)
10. Driving in the breakdown lane to pass traffic, 10% (8% women; 13% men)
News Editor Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt