June 18, 2008
Drivers who slap a bumper sticker onto their cars are more likely to drive aggressively, according to a social psychologist at Colorado State University.
William Szlemko, a Ph.D. student at CSU, authored a road rage study that was published in this month's Journal of Applied Social Psychology.
The study is essentially a bumper bummer.
It concludes that those who personalize their vehicles, be it with a bumper sticker or flashy rims, have the tendency to consider their vehicle territory that needs protection.
"When they feel someone is threatening or invading that territory, they're more likely to respond with aggression to defend that territory," Szlemko said.
He adds people with personalized vehicles are 15 percent more likely to succumb to road rage.
Even those who sport a sticker that preaches love and acceptance, Szlemko said, fall into that group.
"The fact that they've put something on their car expresses their territoriality and that seems to be the larger mechanism driving aggressive responses," he said.
Szlemko says he interviewed a large group of people and most were very willing to open up about their driving habits, even admitting to road rage.
Szlemko was involved with a similar road rage study in 2006 when he and fellow student Jake Benfield surveyed CSU students to determine whether they identified their vehicles as male or female and gave them names.
Not everyone agrees with Szlemko's findings about bumper stickers.
"I don't think that's the case," said Tabitha Wright, whose SUV carries a "God Bless America" sticker. "I think I'm a very patient driver."
Tom Callen, who has left his car stickerless, said, "There are crazy people out there without bumper stickers."
Still, Szlemko hopes his findings get used in the effort to stem aggressive driving, which is a major cause of road accidents in the United States.
Szlemko is not alone in studying the connection between bumper stickers and road rage.