Kiwis quick with the rude salute

By James Ihaka

More than half of New Zealand drivers are likely to slip someone a one-fingered salute and yell obscenities for driving they consider rude or dangerous.

And one in four male motorists admit they will tailgate another driver out of anger and just 3 per cent of women are worried about demerit points, a report says.

Findings from the 2009 AA Insurance Drivers Index showed both men and women were showing increasing signs of aggression when behind the wheel.

The report, which surveyed 3708 New Zealand drivers aged 18 to 65, showed 54 per cent of men said they had gestured rudely or yelled at another motorist who had done something they regarded as dangerous or rude.

Female motorists, at 49 per cent, fared little better in the courtesy stakes although women (17 per cent) were less likely to tailgate drivers who had cut them off than the 24 per cent of men who admitted they had.

AA Insurance deputy general manager Martin Fox said aggressive driving occurred when motorists were put under pressure either from their environment or personal stress.

"However, it is up to individual motorists to recognise when they're feeling stressed and to take particular care behind the wheel so that increased stress levels don't result in safety risks."

Waikato University social psychology lecturer Cate Curtis said increases in displays of aggressive motorist behaviour "probably makes sense".

"Particularly with what's happening with the economy and with people being more stressed in general," she said.

"I would think a lot of the time when people are on the roads is when they are going to work or coming from work - there may be a subconscious or even conscious link to that."

Asked why people were more likely to suffer road rage than in other social interactions, Dr Curtis said cars offered a "degree of anonymity".

And despite recent high-profile road rage incidents such as the killing of Jasmatbhai Pancha Patel, 78, in Mt Albert and the shooting of a man in the face in Rotorua, people can usually drive away from confrontation.

"If you were in the supermarket and somebody cut you off with their trolley you're probably not going to get supermarket rage, are you?" asked Dr Curtis.

Waikato road policing manager Leo Tooman said many road rage incidents were fleeting and went unreported.

But he said New Zealand drivers were generally courteous - particularly in congested areas.

"The thing is we all make mistakes somewhere along the line ... what I'd really like to see is more communication and acknowledgment between motorists."

The report said that while women were more motivated to get to their destinations safely, men were twice as motivated not to get demerit points.

Men are more likely to have serious accidents because 94 per cent of them assume driving responsibilities for long distance trips compared with 42 per cent of women.

But despite their higher likelihood of having an accident, 75 per cent of men believed they had the expertise to teach someone else to drive, compared with only 60 per cent of women.

ROAD RAGE

* 54 per cent of men said that they have gestured rudely or yelled at another motorist who has done something they regarded as dangerous or rude.
* 49 per cent of women responded in the same manner.
* 40 per cent of men knowingly exceed the speed limit.
* 25 per cent of both men and women say they are impatient drivers.
* 25 per cent of men have momentarily fallen asleep at the wheel.
* 24 per cent of men said they have tailgated another motorist out of anger compared with 17 per cent of women.

Source: The 2009 AA Insurance Drivers Index

- NZ Herald

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