Drivers’ behaviours cause ‘ripple effect’ on the road
A new study has concluded that aggressive behaviour on the road by one driver causes others to behave in a similar fashion.
The study, released last week by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the tyre manufacturer Goodyear, found that drivers’ choices of behaviour on the road trigger what is described as a ‘ripple effect’.
In a survey of nearly 9,000 drivers from 15 European countries, 87% of those surveyed agreed that considerate driving by others can prompt them, in turn, to be considerate to other drivers.
Conversely, 55% admitted that when irritated or provoked on the road by one driver, they may be more likely to take it out on another.
The report suggests a ‘simple act of kindness or one of aggression can initiate a chain of events creating an environment that is either comfortable and safer, or stressful and more dangerous for drivers’.
Dr Chris Tennant, who led the research project on behalf of LSE, said: “Setting aside factors such as weather conditions or fatigue, the drivers around us provide an important context to which we respond as our journey unfolds.
“When negotiating road space with others, drivers frequently apply the logic of reciprocity. However, since many interactions are fleeting, the reciprocity is often indirect: our response is made to a different driver later on our journey – thus, the ripple effect on the road.”
When reviewing video scenes of interactions on the road, the majority of those surveyed confirmed the importance of gestures of thanks, with fewer than 10%, typically, denying the importance of such acknowledgements.
In interviews, drivers readily admitted that when one driver neglects to say thank you, they are more likely to drive assertively in the next interaction.
The study found a whole range of behaviours likely to antagonise others, from merging tactics at busy junctions to tailgating, and from poor signalling to motorway lane discipline.
Yet in interview, drivers acknowledged that they perform these same behaviours themselves, usually inadvertently, potentially initiating the ripple effect of negative interactions.
The report says while other road safety research has drawn attention to the challenge of identifying specific problem drivers who are prone to dangerous behaviour, this study demonstrates the need to recognise how other drivers’ behaviour can make anyone drive more dangerously – even if they would not otherwise be considered to be a problem driver.
Olivier Rousseau, Goodyear vice president, said: “The road is rarely seen as a social setting, particularly one wherein good manners should be used.
“In fact our road safety research shows that many drivers can see other cars on the road as anonymous machines, and not as vehicles containing another human being.
“We urge drivers to remember what strong effect their own behaviour has on the behaviour of others. Our study suggests that aggressive and combative driving behaviour by one driver can initiate a chain of reactions between other drivers and eventually cause a dangerous situation or even an accident some time later while the originator has already moved on.
“It is up to all of us to stop this ripple effect on the road.“