There was a radio conversation that caught my attention the other day as I was stuck in a traffic jam. Nobody was going anywhere slowly.
The presenters were talking about a new study that had been released by researchers from the University of Nevada that put science to something most of us suspect anyway: Drivers of expensive cars are the worst. They are the ones least likely to stop to allow pedestrians to cross the road.
Normally, these type of surveys are just food for the social media mill. The University of Nevada study, however, put more meat on the bones that a simple click-bait story meant to be shared and wrack up the clicks for those who count such things.
It took me ten minutes to change it. Get the car to the side of the road, loosen the nuts, jack it up, change the wheel and get the flat back into the wheel well
The researchers found that the likelihood that the drivers of expensive cars will slow down at a pedestrian crossing decreased by 3 per cent for every extra $1,000 that their car is worth.
The methodology of the survey must have meant standing by pedestrian crossings for hours on end, or monitoring them electronically, then detailing those who stopped and those who didn’t — and then figuring out the market value of the particular vehicle. Volunteers were asked to cross pedestrian crossings hundreds of times to build the database for the study.
It’s an interesting social experiment and makes for good water-cooler conversation. The extrapolation from the research concluded that the owners of expensive cars “felt a sense of superiority over other road users”. In other words, they have less empathy with the lowly folks who use pedestrian crossings.
Narcissism and expensive cars seem to go hand in hand.
What received less attention in the survey, however, was that the researchers used one back and one white man, and one black and one white woman. The cars stopped more for white people than for black people — by 31 per cent to 24 per cent, and by 31 per cent to 25 per cent when women went to cross.
The story made for some very interesting calls from listeners.
Argumentative and stubborn
On researching the topic further, it turns out there’s a study from the University of Helsinki that reached similar findings. In that instance, the college researchers surveyed 1,892 drivers and concluded that men who own flashy vehicles are more likely to be “argumentative, stubborn, disagreeable and unempathetic”.
The study, however, also found that conscientious people also drove higher-priced cars too — which seems at odds with the initial findings on the crude and rude drivers.
While it’s all interesting stuff, in the bigger scheme of things it won’t matter much in the long run. Soon, we’ll all be riding around in self-driving cars using smart highways that will keep us connected an up-to-date on everything we do or don’t need to know.
I was thinking too that soon, young drivers won’t know how to reverse and park a car. The advanced features on cars now, with beeps and sensors and cameras, make parking a doddle. There’s no pride now in being able to swing your car into a space the size of a sardine tin.
I got a flat the other day. It took me ten minutes to change it. Get the car to the side of the road, loosen the nuts, jack it up, change the wheel and get the flat back into the wheel well. I know 10 minutes won’t make me part of any Formula 1 pit crew but it’s still good going nevertheless. Besides, there’s a sense of pride in being able to do it. And maybe that’s the thing too with drivers who drive flashy cars.
They have a sense of pride in their ride.
Mick O’Reilly is the Gulf News Foreign Correspondent based in Europe