Traffic accidents as social interactions gone bad

I’ve just read a fascinating study in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention (yes ladies, I got it going on) that looked at which characteristics predicted the number of traffic deaths in particular American states.

The single biggest predictor was not statewide alcohol problems, safety belt use, number of older drivers or wealth, but the murder rate.

The researcher, psychologist Michael Sivak, argues that this is not because people are using cars as murder weapons, but because the murder rate is a proxy for aggression and “the same aggressive tendencies that contribute to homicides also demonstrate themselves, to a certain degree, in interpersonal behaviors on the road”.

In other words, driving style is a way of relating to other road users and traffic accidents are as much a social problem as a problem with road layout, driving competence or mechanical safety.

Link to PubMed entry for study.

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