Effects of social information on driving courtesy
Chowdhury, Nazi Faisal Ahmed
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Aggressive driving, defined as a behavior that intentionally endangers other road users psychologically, physically, or both, has been considered the second most serious issue in road safety after driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and drugs. Researchers have tried to understand the factors involved in driving aggression, but on the other side of it, there has been little research on driving courtesy, which is defined as a polite and safer action or reaction of drivers to other road users. This research approaches the problem of aggressive driving by focusing on both, factors that provoke driving aggression and factors that encourage driving courtesy. Three such factors were identified through an intensive literature review and three focus groups. These three factors, self-identity (being anonymous or identifiable on the road), recent driving experience (good or bad behavior of other drivers on the road) and group affiliation (social identity of other drivers as in- or out-group) were tested for their significance in driving courtesy and aggression through a vignette survey. The vignette stories were developed using two courtesy-encouraging and two aggression-provoking scenarios which had been identified in the focus groups as common and important in traffic safety. The repeated measure logistic regression model was used to analyze the responses and all three factors were found to be statistically significant predictors of driving behavior. Moreover, it was found that these factors can be used in reducing aggression and also promoting courtesy. Sharing in-group information and being identifiable promote courtesy, and being courteous on the road promotes a better environment in which drivers perceive a good driving experience. Since it was identified that having a recent good driving experience helps to reduce aggression, it was concluded that promoting courtesy can reduce aggression. A feasibility study with video vignette was conducted to explore the idea where drivers could share social identity with other drivers through Connected Vehicle Systems (CVS) or similar technology. The results verified the vignette survey experiment, showing that sharing common group identity does indeed reduce aggression and also promotes courtesy. It should be noted, however, that sharing out-group identity can provoke aggression.