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New research highlights ‘ripple’ effect of aggressive driving behaviour

The study was carried out by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and tyre specialist Goodyear across nearly 9,000 drivers from 15 European countries and found that 55% admitted that when irritated or provoked on the road by one driver, they may be more likely to take it out on a different driver later on.

In addition, 87% of drivers agreed that another's considerate driving can prompt them to be considerate to a different driver later on during their journey.

"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," stated Dr Chris Tennant, of the LSE who led the research project.

"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."

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 acknowledge that they perform these same behaviours themselves, usually inadvertently, potentially initiating the ripple effect of negative interactions.

Reviewing video scenes of interactions on the road, the majority of surveyed drivers all affirmed the importance of gestures of thanks, with fewer than 10%, typically, denying the importance of such acknowledgements. In interviews, drivers readily admit that when one driver neglects to say thank you, they are more likely to drive assertively in the next interaction.

Olivier Rousseau, Goodyear vice president consumer tires, Europe, Middle East and Africa, added: "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.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.