Is the kind of car you drive a sign of your driving manners?
A study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2012 showed that people who drive more expensive or ‘status brand’ cars are lacking in road manners.
Paul K. Piff, a researcher at the Institute of Personality and Social Research at the University of California led the study and found that out of 426 drivers, those who drove more expensive cars were less likely to yield to pedestrians at a crosswalk and more likely to cut in front of others when it was not their turn.
These observations were recorded, giving a ‘1’ for a beat-up, low value car, and a ‘5’ for a new, expensive car such as a BMW or Mercedes-Benz. In addition, researchers also recorded the age and gender of the driver.
‘BMW drivers were the worst’
Overall, Mr. Piff said 8 out of every 10 motorists ‘did the right thing.’
“But you see this huge boost in a driver’s likelihood to commit infractions in more expensive cars,” he said. “In our crosswalk study, none of the cars in the beater-car category drove through the crosswalk. They always stopped for pedestrians.”
But, for status cars, the results were the opposite.
“One of the most significant trends was that fancy cars were less likely to stop,” reported Mr. Piff. “BMW drivers were the worst,” he said.
Prius drivers may like the environment, but they don’t like traffic laws
Another finding of the study was that Prius drivers, though environmentally conscious, were guilty of more traffic violations than the average driver.
“In our higher-status vehicle category, Prius drivers had a higher tendency to commit infractions than most,” Mr. Piff said.
Real wealth versus assumed wealth
It should be noted that no research was done to determine each driver’s ‘real’ wealth. It was only assumed that people who drove more expensive cars were more wealthy. But, having a more expensive car is not an indicator of true wealth — it might only mean someone has a high income and can afford the payments, but is in a lot of debt.
A great majority of the millionaires interviewed in the book The Millionaire Next Door did not drive fancy status cars. In fact, 50% of millionaires never spent more than $29,000 for a vehicle in their entire lives! In addition, BMW didn’t even make it to the top 10 list of car brands millionaires drive.
This study doesn’t mean that everyone who drives a certain kind of car is definitely lacking in road manners. But it is a good reminder to each of us to be courteous and look out for others on the road.