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Monday, December 26, 2011

Drivers seem more aggressive

Is it me, or does it seem that over the years that the incorporation of systems like anti-lock braking and electronic skid control has made drivers more aggressive?

I read on Wikipedia in an article about anti-lock brakes where a study on risk compensation theory was done in Munich, Germany. In this particular case, half of the city cabs were equipped with antilock brakes and the others conventional brakes. The drivers of the ABS equipped cars were shown to drive faster, follower closer, and brake later than they would otherwise. The conclusion is that the drivers of the ABS equipped cars were becoming more reliant on the technology to keep them out of trouble.

I wonder what would drivers that have become dependent on these technologies would do when these systems fail, as they do from time to time. According to this piece,  all ESC manufacturers emphasize that the system is not a performance enhancement nor a replacement for safe driving practices, but rather a safety technology to assist the driver in recovering from dangerous situations. ESC does not increase traction, so it does not enable faster cornering (although it can facilitate better-controlled cornering). More generally, ESC works within inherent limits of the vehicle's handling and available traction between the tires and road. A reckless maneuver can still exceed these limits, resulting in loss of control. For example, in a severe hydroplaning scenario, the wheels that ESC would use to correct a skid may not even initially be in contact with the road, reducing its effectiveness.

Yet, in all the years that I have been driving, I have seen drivers who think that having these technologies such as front wheel drive will keep them out of trouble so they become more aggressive. The tendency has been for them to try to intimidate others with older vehicles into getting out of their way.

What got me thinking about this was a letter that was written to the Holland Sentinel last winter. The lady who wrote this letter complained about people tailgating her and trying to get her to go faster. Some of the comments written about her letter assumed that she was being tailgated for driving in the left lane of a four lane road, even though it was not specified that that was the case. However, there were some follow up letters written that I think were quite nice. The writers of these letters explained not everyone has the option of staying in in bad weather. Grocery shopping still needs to be done. Children still need to be taken places. And some people like myself still have to get to work.

Aggressive drivers just make things worse.


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