jueves, 1 de noviembre de 2012

Aggressive drivers and road violence (english version)

The human body is the chariot; the self is the driver;
  thoughts are the reins; and feelings the horses.
Creative Common, Photo by  Antonio Herrera

The occidental society encourages competition from our childhood age. Already in school we are prepared for a world, in which – where losing is concerned – it might better be you than me. Competition is seen as something positive to evolve and advance in our civilization; and to diminish its pejorative character we talk about ambition. However, competition is also a source that generates environments prone for aggressiveness. The fight for survival obliges us in many occasions to adopt aggressive behaviours – bee it to defend ourselves or to attack. In the world of traffic a lot of experts and organizations (the World Health Organization among them) talk clearly about “road violence”. 

Why some people are more aggressive when they drive?
In previous posts I have already reflected on this topic. To drive a car activates determined psycho-physical mechanisms, which grant us a bigger capacity for reaction in unexpected situations – we pay higher attention, that’s why we react faster. However, driving also provokes a higher level of aggressiveness and in many people it potentiates their violate character. We feel a higher impunity to violent attitudes we are exercising while driving: blowing the horn, inappropriate speed, incorrect security distances, we accelerate while others are overtaking us…putting aside even more extreme cases. We have the feeling of anonymity and security while being encaged inside the driver’s cab, where we feel unobserved. And, in case of problems, there is always the “brave alternative
 of flight (in spite of the existence of number plates, testimonies, security cameras, car mechanics and police investigation techniques to prevent it). The car is converted into an addition to my personal distance – my territory – where only those enter that I want to. In human beings the sense of territory is as or even more pronounced than the one an animal species might have. Many people have an extremely developed competitive impulse (everyone can find a face in his memory to whom this may apply). Too much competiveness causes aggressiveness and this generates feelings of rage and vengeance which run free within the confines of our mobile territory.

“But what is he doing?” 
“Have you seen, how he barred my way?” 
“He will notice when I blow my horn.”

Sometimes aggressiveness surges as a defence mechanism when we feel uncomfortable. In other occasions we exercise pressure on the one before us, because we feel lobbied by the one behind ; in the traffic system we can observe this phenomenon in the speed management; and in the companies in the hierarchies and the flow of responsibilities.

The profile of an aggressive drivers is associated with the following attributes: cynical, rude, without empathy and that he not only exhibits them while driving but also at work or at home, but while driving those attributes of his personality are easiest to detect by his fellow passengers and his victims.

What motivates aggressiveness while driving?
The casuistic in road violence is very extensive and I will only make an approximation. There are internal casuistics which remain inside of each individual and there are external or environmental cases. Each person has an irritability level where the offensive aggressiveness or the sensitivity is potentiated, which concludes in defensive aggressiveness. Each person has different tolerance levels to a large variety of emotional states: for example sadness, preoccupation, frustration, rage, excitation…, and they modify our reactions in different ways to a higher or lower degree of violence. In the end it will be our capacity to control those emotions in an adequate way, that will make us control many of the impulses we have while driving. Among the external factors, heat or the degree of humidity have to be pointed out (see anterior post). Also the acoustic level is important, above all if its volume or duration are not taken into consideration, which provoke irritation and aggressiveness. Finally we must not forget the traffic jams, which according to its duration or our time available can provoke frustration and which can conclude in very aggressive actions.

Degrees of aggressive behaviour:

First phase: The objective is that the other driver feels bad making a moral attack.
To ridicule, blaspheme, insult, to make inappropriate gestures or faces.
Second phase: the objective is the same but the argumentation deteriorates
Gradually the characteristics described in the first phase are aggravated, one starts to lose rational thought.
Third phase: the other driver is directly provoked
He is harassed (light flashing, irruption in the path of the other’s car, producing an abrupt detention in front of the other’s vehicle…)
Forth phase: the other driver is attacked physically
The auto-control disappears and verbal and physical violence open their path toward the other driver.

Learning by observation is one of the natural ways we have to gain experience, no matter whether it is positive or negative.

“If I see that somebody is behaving badly but reaches his objective, I will do the same”.

This posture adopted by a lot of people contributes to the extension of bad behaviour on our roads. Road violence extents itself due to imitation, due to the lack of education about the correct behaviour in the traffic system, and because we are in need of an effective socio-cultural coercion which fights this egoistical lifestyle.

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