Problem Drivers Are Problem People

From an interesting op-ed, in which I am quoted, in The Canberra Times:

Not long after Henry Ford drove the car into mainstream American life, a new area of psychology began to flourish. Its aim, in layman’s terms, was to understand why apparently normal people become complete arseholes behind a steering wheel. Leon Brody’s 1955 book, The psychology of problem drivers, concluded that ”problem drivers are problem people; or rather, people with problems, including problems of which they often are not aware”. Until then, researchers had believed most crashes were caused by physical shortcomings such as slow reflexes, poor eyesight and glare-recovery time. But, as Herbert Stack wrote in the Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine in 1956, ”[In] all of our studies, these characteristics have been found to have little significance. The real causes of accidents are far more deep-seated. They have to do with our attitudes, our emotions, and our judgments.”

This entry was posted on Monday, July 11th, 2011 at 9:10 am and is filed under Drivers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

9 Responses to “Problem Drivers Are Problem People”

  1. Dan Miller Says:

    ” We talk about ‘beating the traffic’ or ‘getting stuck in traffic’, but we never talk in polite company, at least about ‘beating people’ or ‘getting stuck in people'”

    Is this true? People in busy cities (e.g. New York or DC) sure do loathe tourists, especially in crowded areas like the subway.

  2. jim brock Says:

    It’s hard to work out people…. I have a mate who is so laid back it’s untrue but when he’s behind the wheel. OMG…..

    Wonder what problems he has ? lol

  3. vmgillen Says:

    When I was in grade school we were often shown Walt Disney “educational” cartoons (to give the teachers a break?) – one that made an impression had Donald Duck turning into a red-demon behind the wheel of his convertible. After an intervention he was a changed duck – he even stopped and tipped his fedora to people crossing the street! All things were possible when I was a kid – we also believed we would have a four-day work week because techno-marvels would free workers for more leisure time. NOT!

  4. Jack Says:

    Disney understood what it took years for “experts” to write about. One of my favorite cartoons, how Mr Walker becomes Mr Wheeler (it’s all about anger management), explained by Goofy in MotorMania:

  5. bb Says:


    We allow death, and permit it’s existence.

  6. gpsman Says:

    The real causes of accidents are far more deep-seated. They have to do with our attitudes, our emotions, and our judgments.”

    The author was probably dismissed as a k00k who didn’t understand that if you don’t drive like a moron you will never arrive at your destination and/or you will be “run over”.

    “95% of this game is half mental.” – Yogi Berra

    “Crashes are not accidents”, and steering is not driving.

  7. Andrew Says:

    To “Beat traffic” is to leave earlier, later or choose an alternate route. This avoids problems. Problem people “Fight traffic.” What do you stand to “win” by fighting traffic? A few seconds. Not only do they uselessly elevate their own stress level, they bother the mellow people and cause crashes.

  8. gpsman Says:

    What Andrew said.

  9. Ed Says:

    The book reference sounds really interesting; but i can’t find it googling around… i do see this paper:
    its full text is there, and the author, a Herbert Stack, quotes from Brody’s book and appears to have been a collaborator with him on other work.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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